Wednesday, April 20, 2005

After having seen Jacques Tati’s Playtime in 70 millimeter, it makes me feel that despite the fact I have seen all of Tati’s films, I hadn’t truly seen a Tati film until tonight. I remember regarding Playtime as Tati’s most challenging film the first time I saw it. Now having seen it as it was meant to be seen, I feel I understand it so much better. There’s a visceral story hidden beneath the antics. It’s going to be hard going back to the small screen. I love this movie. Has there ever been a moment so simultaneously profound and funny as when the doorman at the upscale restaurant having just witnessed the glass door shatter to pieces continues miming his job with just the door handle? What a beautiful image. Everything in life is an illusion. Tati was a genius. No doubt about it. Like Thelonious Monk, he was an artist whose genius was immediately recognized but rarely if ever imitated. His style was so fresh and radical but instantly appealing. He was a revolution that never happened. Like an out of control carousel, he spun so fast that nobody else could get on and all were left instead to merely watch the brilliant, twirling lights from afar. But it seems in recent years there has been a growing appreciation for Tati among film lovers and filmmakers alike. As if the carousel is beginning to slow down, filmmakers are starting to get on. Spielberg says Playtime was an inspiration for The Terminal. P. T. Anderson once cited Tati as an influence on Punch Drunk Love. Sylvain Chomet, whose affection is most visually and aurally noticeable, even went as far as to thank Jacques Tati in the credits to The Triplets of Belleville. Maybe there’s a revolution to be inspired by Tati yet. Aloof, pipe-smoking, trench coat-wearing, romantics of the world unite!

The special guest after the film was Jonathon Rosenbaum, film critic for the Chicago Reader, who regards Playtime as one of, if not, the best movie ever made. What was really fascinating, however, was that Rosenbaum at one point worked for Jacques Tati. He worked in Tati’s office at the tail end of his career working as something of a script consultant, but mainly, as he said, he was there just to cheer Tati up after the failure of Playtime and keep him working happily. That would be on my short list of dream jobs. With that in mind, I’m sure I’ll probably one day end up giving foot massages to McG. Great.

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