PLAYTIME by Jacques Tati
Shot from 03:12 – 04:48 / Airport waiting room
Jacques Tati’s 1967 film, Playtime, captures a cascading series of events through the sterile architecture of Paris, in which few familiar characters inhabit. Tati’s infamous alter ego, Monsieur Hulot, haphazardly occupies many scenes as he stumbles through Paris after trying to contact an American official. The film is confined to no genre, nor does it necessarily form a new one – it simply exists in its own right as an exploration of societal function. ...view middle of the document...
Numerous times in Playtime, Tati presents a scene from a distance for the audience to observe. The off centre position of the camera in relation to the furniture also allow for the chairs to act as depth cues and show the enormous length of the room.
Everything in the frame is in focus, which in a cinema viewing is a lot to take in, especially considering the films aspect ratio of 1.85:1. However, the audiences’ eyes are cleverly guided around the frame by almost unnaturally loud sounds, some of which are accentuated in post-production by Tati. The sounds against the floors create a reverbing echo, highlighting the absurd impracticality of the building. A man and a woman sit in the bottom left hand corner of the frame in what appears to be a waiting area. They are dressed identically in their monotonous grey colours, as if they are enslaved to the colours surrounding them. During the shot’s beginning, the audience is drawn to the nuns and their rhythmic footsteps as they enter the frame. Then, through a combination of actor gestures and dialogue, this gaze shifts to the two characters anchored in the foreground of the image. The rattling of a table being wheeled out by a man in white into the frame moves our eyes, as well as the couples own attention, to its position. Next, a man – ‘an important person’ as the woman exclaims – enters from the background of the shot, the echoing clicking of his shoes highlighting his entrance and position. This trend continues, with each instance from a different position in the frame and from a varying depth. This one by one presentation of various characters acts almost as a sightly adjustment to the unusual style of the film; Jacques Tati himself ‘testing’ the audiences’ ability to look at all positions of the frame and awakening them to the vast space pictured in the shot.
The dialogue between the evidently married couple signifies the dreary reality of living in the city. She tells him to ‘take good care of [himself]’ and not to ‘catch a cold’; reassuring him that she has packed his belongings. Cleverly, the dialogue without context of place, along with nuns and what appears to be medical equipment being wheeled around by a doctor, creates the feeling of unease and procedure evoked from being inside a hospital. It is only during later shots that it is revealed that the couple are in an airport, awaiting a flight. The bleak exchanges of dialogue between the man and the woman suggest that he is being submitted into care and that they are in the waiting room, and indeed,...