Jour de fête (Tati, 1949)

16 05 2010

Due to my studies, this is the only feature from the recent Tati screenings here in Buenos Aires that I was able to watch. I cannot complain, however, when the film in question has so much juice to it. The camera roams and finds the main character. You can already see Playtime in its freedom: the subject matter of the film is an entire town. Now, the portrait of this town is not terribly interesting. Tati is not going for ‘meaningful’ insights here; rather, he is obsessed with how things move and play inside a given space, allowing the comedy to emerge from the actions of humble characters who don’t want to be funny even as they make us laugh.

Playtime is more obviously profound. It has things to say about surfaces and urban spaces and the inhumanity of it all. Here, we also find the encroachment of modernity, but the critique is light-hearted, a pretext for a weightier theme that is the true centerpiece of the film: disdaining one’s own culture in comparison to another, whether or not the habits of this other culture can be incorporated to your own. Another weightier theme: the way silly entertainment attacks your reality, refuses to stay up there on the screen, impugns upon and sullies your reality, a reality that cannot match up with the shadows on the silver screen, because the nature of an advertisement-film, like the one that the main character watches, tends to produce such reactions: it doesn’t inspire a deeper look into your reality but shows you an ideal surface, and when the film ends, you compare the ideal surface to the surface of your reality, and finally the only thing that matters is the surface, the movement, but not the inner cogs, not the history, not the context, not the background that gives surfaces and actions their meaning. In this game of surfaces, the main character temporarily forgets his culture in an effort at homogeneity. We must all be like the advertisement-film.

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