Play Time Essay

Submitted By stephaniemccarthy24
Words: 977
Pages: 4

An integral shot I have chosen to focus on in the film Play Time (Jacques Tati, 1967, France) lies within the fifth ‘Royal Gardens’ sequence. The twenty-eight second shot which is filmed within the restaurant (from 1:31:13 to 1:31:41) depicts the destruction and eventual collapse of a wooden chassis in a posh new Parisian restaurant on its opening night. This clip marks the eradication of patterns and behaviors prescribed throughout the initial environment of the film (North, Dan, 2008).

The restaurant steadily devolves through physical breakage in to a more relaxed, nonchalant setting. Jacques Tati’s use of movement, space and mise-en-scene within this clip emphasizes a strong shift in the narrative where we see a revise in the repetition of environments and the way in which the characters interact within them.

In contrast to the prior scenes in the film, it is apparent that the ‘destruction’ shot represents a shift in movement and use of space. It marks a break from the prescribed linear movements as seen in the first half of the film. The actors are spread irregularly throughout the restaurant in between tables and on the dance floor, which suggests a division forming between a controlled modernistic world and a free environment of expression (MacKinnon, Lincoln, 2012).

This medium long shot gives the viewer a broad perception of the dense environment, with the focal point being the protagonist Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) and the American Tourist. Both characters are trying to reach a yellow flower on the high wooden structure, which eventually causes the breakage of the set. Thus it would appear that the scene conveys a melodic and visual crescendo as we see all the actors accelerated dancing and momentum of jazz music fasten. This contributes to the collapse of the mundaneness of structured society, which is prevalent in the first half of the film. As the lavish framework begins to deteriorate, the characters begin to enjoy themselves more as seen by their deviation of conformed movement and random use of their environment.

With particular organisation of the mise-en-scene in this shot, the set and costume design are structurally formal elements as well as props to signify development in the film narrative. In Play Time, the set begins as an upright, linear and ultra-modern structure. We see the deterioration of this through the increasingly chaotic and disorderly restaurant environment, which contradicts the once clean, shiny and predominantly metallic sets. This clear juxtaposition in setting and colour is an important component as it supports narrative development by showing the inhuman city landscape and interior transform by vitality and spontaneity (Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kristin, 2013).

The wooden chassis also develops in to a motif as the actors introduce the broken pieces of decor as a door to their own private ‘club. This motif is repeated multiple times earlier in the film, such as the broken door to enter the restaurant as well as the ‘slam your door in silence’ scene. The actors use the broken set to play in the wreckage of the modern world. It would appear that the door motif is used by Tati to comment on societies obsession for order and control (MacKinnon, Lincoln, 2012).

High-level lighting is continued throughout this clip, but now shadows are cast by the use of three-point lighting, giving the actors a more naturalistic significance. The lighting now allows the actors to stand out from the background with their movements as we are given a more three dimensional view.

An introduction to different hues in costume colour prompts the narrative development through the contrast of prominent earthy colours against the flat, modern surfaces (MacKinnon, Lincoln, 2012). In the clip, all characters are now dressed in obvious 1960s style clothes, whereas suits were previously used as another recurring motif for uniformity. This once again shows a strong progression of the characters