Demetrios Matheou



On screen, on stage, out and about

Demetrios Matheou

October 27th, 2014
Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)

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This is my favourite by the French comic genius Jacques Tati, because of its marvellous take on modern architecture and living. Tati used his anachronistic alter-ego, Monsieur Hulot, with his old-world manners and eccentricity, as a counterpoint to what he saw as the social aridness of modernisation. In Playtime, Hulot arrives at an imagined modernist city of glass and steel tower blocks, adrift in a world of transparency and endless repetition. The film displays a comic horror at the standardisation of modern architecture. It’s unclear whether the interior that opens Playtime is an airport, a bank or a hospital; the soundtrack is a feast of the ambient sounds of this futuristic world, characters lost amid a cacophony of humming and buzzing, the metallic clumping of footsteps and the sucking and wheezing of plastic chairs. At one point in Playtime a man approaches the doorman of an office building and asks for a light for his cigarette – extending his hand without realising that there is a glass wall between them. As someone who once broke his nose when he ran into the video shop, I know how he feels.