Jacques Tati, 1967
Putting any type of detailed description regarding this film's plot would be not only have to be painstakingly thought out but also an exercise in futility. In mentally crafting what I was to write about Jacques Tati's Playtime, the same visually-heavy adjectives continuously flew through my head, and it seems as if the film itself is nothing in an exercise of the eyes; I assure you this could not be further from the truth. What we have here is not only an intracately calculated piece of filmmaking at the highest level craftsmanship but ambiguous themes dealing with the deconstruction of post modernism.
Playtime exists within a gloriously constructed town, the set of which is appropriately named "Tativille". While there are some characters that the film follows through with, it is hard in this writer's honest opinion, to label a protagonist. Events of others coexist so blissfully harmonic with that of any of our developed characters that "catching up" rather than "following" them would be a more appropriate term. In a film where the dissection of its narrative is useless, I believe that using the term "harmonic" to express the action we see throughout the film is more than apt as so many individualized moments are all occuring within the same frame; filling it with a beautiful and oddly functioning clutter. The depth of Tati's lense captures far more than that of one's eye and the average viewer will find their own darting about in a feeble attempt to take in all that exists within Tativille.
Despite the grand aesthetic and orchestration of each aspect of the film, one must add the hilarity that ensues throughout from beginning to end. Gags can be found in every inch of the screen and some will go undiscovered for several viewings while others may just become even more amusing. The scope of the humor itself depends solely on the viewer but for a film without many, if any, apparent verbal punchlines it more that succeeds in physical humor, both in terms of its players as well as the sets themselves.
While I don't want to bog-down this essay of such a whimsically comedic film with subtext and meaning, I feel that there is a very apparent message there. In terms of modern design and architecture, the idea is to put functionality over form. While Tativille has a similar aesthetic to that of modernism (glass, metal, emphatically built paths and enterance ways) it is all for show. Many characters become lost or incredibly disoriented by the "modern" design in reality its more of a contemporary construct. The veneer of our sets are constructed out of function only for our director and the characters are sometimes clueless as to how an aspect of a building is intended to look and read. In the later portions of the film we see several design themes backfire on their planners (doors break, architectural idioms collapse, etc...) and yet functionality spawns and endures from these misteps. The theme of falling apart shows us that details are not meant to overtake the idea of a construct itself but should work with it and around its occupants. The buildings within Tativille certainly does not do that for its characters, and conversely works great for our director in his presentation of this cinematic wonder.