"I struck it rich in real estate, making Paris ugly." That's Michel Serrault as the wealthy protagonist in Claude Sautet's Nelly and M. Arnaud, hinting at the problem beyond the Peripherique. We've got a lot of Paris as hell city of the future in the upcoming Renaissance, as well as La Haine, District B13and whatever else emerges culturally from last year's open-air car barbecue and brick-tossing competition. A look at Jacques Tati's 1967 Playtime offers a milder view of the city's centuries-old troubles.Tati takes a little getting used to for the modern audience. As director and actor, he's sort of the last of the silent comedians (if you don't count Charles Lane's anomalous Sidewalk Stories). There is a soundtrack, though, of English lines amid a bubble of half-heard, irrelevant talk credited to Art Buchwald, newspapercolumnist and the man who successfully sued Paramount for plagiarism. We catch stray lines; "I feel at home wherever I go," murmurs a tourist stepping from a bus into a steel and glass hotel; "I can't tell if I'm on the Right Bank or the Left Bank," frets a passerby. Electronic security systems, new at the time, bleat and blat and fart, sealing up victims in glass booths or elevators. PA systems squawk semi-understandable commands at the populace, or drench them in syrupy, organ-heavy Muzak. (It was fun catching this at the 70mm fest at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, because the theater was as full of as much chirping as an aviary when people were turned off their cell phones, right before the show started. What gags Tati would have wreaked out of cell phones!)
categories Cinematical