To some Playtime (1967), at four years in the making, is Jacques Tati's masterpiece - a film that fully realised his complex vision of a movie where the audience will laugh not at the same thing, but at different details. To others, despite its brilliance, this cold satire on business and bureaucracy, lacks the innocence of Les Vacances de M. Hulot, a perfect film.
With Les Vacances, Tati created his own vision of a seaside holiday to which we always wish to return. Here, though, he bankrupted himself (and even lost his house) with the austere world he had built on 6 acres outside Paris. Playtime's excesses may have damaged his reputation (he was to make just one more film). But it has aged remarkably well, and looks stunning in this BFI edition, complete with alternative `international' soundtrack, which Tati revised to incorporate more English dialogue.
To those yearning for another Les Vacances or Mon Oncle, this will inevitably disappoint. But accept that Tati, brilliant film-maker and perfectionist that he was, had long earned the right to pursue different styles and concepts, and you will find yourself absorbed by Playtime, a film truly with no equal.