Les Vacances de Monsieur Videogamedunkey
June 10, 2021 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I'd already seen Playtime on video and loved it, but in 2014 I saw it in 70mm at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, and it was the closest thing I've had to a religious experience in a movie theatre. Just a gorgeous, amazing work of art.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:22 AM on June 10 [17 favorites]

Oh, that was nice. Playtime is like 2001 crossed with Solaris for a lot of people, but pure joy for some of us. For me the point of Tati's films isn't so much the criticism of modernism as that the fundamentally messy nature of people will always push its way through inhuman regulation - these spaces aren't actually designed for people, but as soon as you put people in them they start doing people stuff all over the place. Oddly - because modernism was something that was happening Somewhere Out There while I was very small - it ties in with a genuine nostalgia for modernism that I often feel.
posted by Grangousier at 8:30 AM on June 10 [13 favorites]

Very nice distillation of one of my favorite films.
posted by octothorpe at 9:01 AM on June 10

If this video inspires you to watch "Playtime", be prepared: like all the films of Jacques Tati, "Playtime" develops very slowly. The takes are super-long compared to a modern film. Tati is like Tarkovski and Kubrick, in that he's in no hurry to make his point. But Tati's tendency to slowness seems more pronounced than that of Tarkovski and Kubrick, because his films are labeled as comedies.

All Tati's films require an investment of time and patience. But the payoff is that you will return to them through your whole life, like old friends.
posted by Modest House at 9:05 AM on June 10 [13 favorites]

Thanks oulipian, I enjoyed the review and just reserved Playtime from my library.
posted by biffa at 9:49 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Now I'm intrigued. I just discovered that it's on Kanopy, in case you have access through your local library.
posted by vverse23 at 9:52 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

What's fascinating about the movie, that Dunkey and a few have mentioned here already, is that Tati purposefully breaks the known "rules" on attention; the way people watch movies and basically interact with their surroundings, but in doing so only further emphasizes the elements of the world he brings to the audience. It's kinda nuts really, I mean this was before VCRs or any hope of the movie being "rewatchable" in today's sense, or even in the catch it on TV era of the seventies.

Playtime wouldn't work on TV of that era, has a scale that will makes trying to catch all that goes on in any shot difficult even in the best of viewing circumstances and near impossible on a small device, so was made knowing it would never likely be fully appreciated by the audience in the way it would be viewed. It would take many screenings to catch everything happening and the viewer has to act against their more natural inclination to follow the main identified character or obvious focal points, because the main character is as much reacting to or ignorant of events happening elsewhere and that elsewhere could be anywhere on the screen, or maybe even off, as there is often no real center of focus provided, with visual lines leading the eye all over the screen and figures and movement liable to be at any or multiple areas within their field of view.

That's a design for confusion, which also of course precisely fits the theme. Nonetheless, it boggles the mind to think of all the busyness and effort put into it all knowing people wouldn't be able to take it in, they'd presumably catch on to there being all these things happening on the fringes and find amusement in some or just the notion of it all, but they'd have to pick and choose where to look, knowing looking in one area would mean possibly missing something better in another and maybe losing track of where things were entirely, especially given how little the audience is given on the why and where of things in the first place. It's brilliant and simply incomparable to any other movie in this regard. In some ways its closer to a Hieronymus Bosch painting than other movies with all there is to see, but even with Bosch the painting stands still so you can actually scan the whole surface in one sitting, with PlayTime you'd have to go back and watch it over and over again. Thankfully though that's a blessing, not a curse.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:58 AM on June 10 [11 favorites]

I was half expecting him to review the movie as a game.

i spent 6-8 years learning to define what a 'game' is and fuck it a game is when you see a little guy on a screen

Therefore, Playtime is a game. Most movies aren't games because they didn't make the guy little enough.
posted by RobotHero at 10:09 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]

I saw it in 70mm at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, and it was the closest thing I've had to a religious experience in a movie theatre

I saw it in LA in 70mm at the Egyptian Theater and I could. not. stop. weeping. It was so beautiful. It's an incredible film.
posted by Omon Ra at 10:34 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]

The brevity and intensity of this (review? Fan letter? Short essay?) is fantastic - if this is a New Media Invention thing from the Youtubers I’m totally on board.
posted by q*ben at 10:43 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

The brevity and intensity of this (review? Fan letter? Short essay?) is fantastic - if this is a New Media Invention thing from the Youtubers I’m totally on board.

I think of it as an endorsement video. However one feels about Dunkey, I know some really don't like him, he's developed his "voice" over time into a fairly defined style or method that allows him to get right at what he wants to say since he's built an understanding of what works for his audience and, by extension, the hooks he relies for interest which new viewers can catch on to quickly by that sense of licensed experience that comes through.

Dunkey does a good job in providing an overview of the concept and suggestions of the themes of the movie, but even better for advocating it, uses the video as something of a guide in how to watch the movie, showing different elements to look for by amplifying some of the more subtle amusements via Dunkey's own commenting shtick matched with his more thoughtful reflections on the overall experience, as when he rightly noted Tati's lack of cynicism, which is an important aspect of Tati's work, but also better informs Dunkey's audience what to expect from the movie. It's a nicely done piece of work by Dunkey, I'd be interested to see others like it and hope it gets his considerable audience to check out the film(s).
posted by gusottertrout at 11:24 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't recommend Playtime if you have not been exposed to Tati before.

I'd start with Mon Oncle, which has some similar themes, including the absurdities of modernism, but in a friendlier manner.

It is a beautiful movie full of nostalgia. The great opening scene, with the dogs, is actually setting up many of the themes to come, although in a subtle, Tati-esque way. It has always been clear that Tati worked hard on every single shot. What often looks at first like some scene of confusion, where actors were told to just run around, is the exact opposite: everyone is exactly where they need to be and the scene is setup perfectly. On repeated viewings it becomes clearer what each choreographed movement really meant and how, like a series of chess moves, the pieces are all moving inevitably toward their targets.
posted by vacapinta at 11:33 AM on June 10 [10 favorites]

> However one feels about Dunkey, I know some really don't like him,

Yes, I love Playtime but I could not listen to this video for more than 10s. It just has too much "dudes discuss cinema" podcaster voice to it. I am glad to see this note about how it's meaningful to people.

It makes me think of Playtime itself, because I really dislike slapstick and so I avoided Tati for a long time, because I was told he was slapstick. Instead, it's like slapstick where no one is sad or embarrassed but is happy and funny and interesting, and so maybe Dunkey is an ok podcaster voice dude. That one I may never find out tho.
posted by dame at 12:46 PM on June 10

Dunkey has evolved over the years from being the thing to being an ironic version of the thing to being a parody of the thing to subtly deconstructing the thing to being a critical meta-analysis of the thing.

And I totally get how Dunkey's voice is very hard to take, but I think their early adoption of it to find sympathetic viewers, and determination to stick with it as they've evolved their critique beyond hurf durf may be a little like Dolly Parton's refusal to offend her deeply religious, conservative followers while still being strongly, strongly feminist in word and deed.

Anyway. Dunkey is kind of like extremely peaty whiskey. Not for everyone, but if you can tolerate the harsh start, rather worth it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:43 PM on June 10

This was a lovely reminder of a lovely film. I'll have to watch it again when I get back to my bigger screen.
And I think that it is somehow vaguely eponysterical that the post is by oulipian.
posted by mumimor at 3:18 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

It's wild because I'm still so used to Dunkey making joke videos about video games that I was somewhat unprepared for this completely serious take on a movie I love, even though I know intellectually that he does this kind of video on occasion. And man, he noticed way more stuff than I did too. I'm sad I didn't catch the mannequin-in-the-airport gag.

I do love the whole restaurant scene and the morning after. It's such a lovely depiction of chaotic camaraderie between strangers and it can't help but put a smile on my face every time.

I wouldn't recommend Playtime if you have not been exposed to Tati before.

Playtime is the only Tati movie I've seen!
posted by chrominance at 3:51 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

While I disagree that Playtime is a “bad” intro to Tati (it’s on the unofficial list of Films Everyone Sees In Architecture School), definitely run out and get Mon Oncle if you enjoyed Playtime.
posted by q*ben at 4:37 PM on June 10

My dad loved Mr. Hulot. So I've seen Mr. Hulot's Holiday, and Traffic, when I was like, 10-12. Will add Playtime to the playlist.
posted by Windopaene at 8:35 PM on June 10

In a moment of synchronicity, I'd just visited the Aldi that opened in my area for the first time and was reminded of the Flavor Nexus DLC level from Jazzpunk, a similarly gag-packed game that removes Playtime's elements of challenge simply by placing the player in the middle of it.
posted by BiggerJ at 9:46 PM on June 10

Seconding Mon Oncle as a good entry point for Tati. The skepticism these films express towards modernism is both something I appreciate but also a point of worry for me, as the nostalgia can be interpreted as reactionary. The films never really fully go there, but a viewer certainly could take the ball and run with it.

This post reminds me of a project I put on ice a few years ago: trying to reproduce the "Fly to Stockholm" poster from the travel agent into a printable format. I should dig those files up again.
posted by St. Oops at 10:31 PM on June 10

“Playtime” in 70mm at the Music Box in Chicago was one of my all-time favorite movie experiences (or anything experiences, for that matter). “Mon Oncle” is also terrific, but “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” was my introduction to Tati, and it’s perfect for summer. Here’s a lovely Ebert review, especially the part about seeing it a second time.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 7:15 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]

This has been a favorite of mine ever since it was shown in one of my first film courses. Every semester after that when I knew it would be screened I'd sneak into the theater to see it again -- and usually urged friends to go with me. Yes, it was also available at most of the video rental places in town, but the opportunity to see it on a big screen was irresistible.
posted by theory at 5:59 PM on June 14

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