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France/Sweden 1974
Directed by
Jacques Tati
84 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967), the director’s ambitious satire of modernity that failed to win audiences and brought him, like Coppola with his comparable 1982 film, One From The Heart, to his fiscal knees, was his last great film. He made two more films after that, Traffic (1972) also with his alter ego, Monsieur Hulot, and Parade, his final film, made for Swedish television on a minimal budget.

Recalling The Rolling Stones Rock N’Roll Circus (1968) with its flower power audience and even a French rock band, Tati returns to the music hall environment in which he began his career as a mime artist in the 1930s, performing and MCing a roster of talented magicians, acrobats and musicians in a delightfully inventive Big Top show for all ages.

The first half of the show, pre-intermission, is the stronger, with the second half performances tending to repeat themselves and including a slapstick section involving a donkey (au hazard, Balthazar!!) in a routine which seems to be of much more dubious merit than probably it appeared in its day) although even here there are moments of typically Tati-esque magic. The director maintains a guiding spirit which is best summed up by the two small children playing with the abandoned props after the show is over. Tati himself shows how talented he was as a mime but the film’s greatest value is that it gives us the great comic undiluted by narrative expectations and dedicated to what he clearly loved best, making people laugh.

DVD Extras: The film is not subtitled but an English dialogue list is available in PDF format.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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