Shot in what was then considered to be modern Paris (1967), Jacques Tati’s Playtime is without a question one of the greatest works of art of the 20th century. It is great because it is many things at once: a comedy; a comment on modernist architecture, international culture, late capitalism, and the decline of truly public exteriors and the rise of privatized interiors. New technologies are mocked but not with the objective of reestablishing some long-lost natural order. Tati’s characters, one of whom, M. Hulot, he plays, are not upset about the new world of corporate environments, electrified domestic luxuries, and global music charged by African rhythms. They are just a little lost in all of this, and trying to figure out how to adapt and relax among these recently invented shapes and spaces. The urban world of Playtime is unchallenged; it is just suddenly there—new, immaculate, gleaming with glass and steel. This is where all of the future is soon to live, eat, fuck, and party. The nightclub sequence, which makes up much of the second half of the film, is simply wonderful. You can watch it a thousand times and never exhaust its surprises and fantastic details.
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