Friday, July 07, 2006 by , under

Well, it might not seem like much to you, but I've just learned that Criterion set themselves towards a september release of the new, remastered version of "Playtime" (1967), by french director Jacques Tati. Criterion had put it out of print for a few years --the legendary movie had become one of the rarest items on the market, its few remaining copies seen at prices above 200$ on Amazon.

In case you don't know Jacques Tati, he's probably the most brilliant filmmaker/art director to ever grace the 20th century, and his best movie (in my humble opinion),"Playtime", is simply a visual masterpiece.

In Wikipedia's words : "In Playtime, Tati's character M. Hulot and a group of American tourists lose themselves in a futuristic glass-and-steel Paris, where only human nature and a few hints of old Paris emerge to breathe life into the city. New technologies, billed as conveniences, are satirized as merely complicating life, an interference to natural human interaction. Playtime depended greatly on visual effects and sight humor, and Tati consequently shot the film on the high-resolution 70mm film format."

The film was shot over four years (1964-1967), and featured the biggest budget in the french film industry at the time. Jacques Tati completely recreated his vision of a "modern paris" by building what he called "Tativille" in Saint-Meurice, southeast of Paris - the place was so big it had its own electric power plant.

What's particular about Playtime is that it has no plot whatsoever. There's no story to follow. One might deem the film particularly boring if searching for traditional notions of storytelling. Tati is not a storyteller per se, rather a fantastic painter of modern society and all its vicissitudes.

Read a complete essay on Playtime, by Kent Jones.

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