Design stills from Tati’s Playtime

Jacques Tati’s Playtime
is a wonderful movie; the setting, the color, the cinematography, the soundtrack, the fashion, everything, all wonderful. Sure there’s not much of a “traditional” plot, but this was the 60s, in Paris! Come on.

Googling around, you’ll find many articles & books
discussing (usually) the film’s architecture and set design. You can read about “Tativille“, the modern metropolis built outside Paris for the filming and famous for being a grand masterpiece of architecture so expensive as to have bankrupted Tati and the production company. But there’s so much more to it than that….

Everytime I watch Playtime I get something else out of it. This last viewing left me impressed with all the poor product & environmental design Tati manufactured.

Screen grabs of some of the better examples:

This scene has an office security guy using the building’s intercom to announce a visitor. It’s a great example of obscure buttons, meaningless feedback, and needless complexity.

This scene shows a demonstration of a broom with headlights. It’s a fun scene: the demonstrator loads the batteries at the top, screws on the end piece with this ridiculously long little springy contact thing and then switches it on with a flourish. Great sound design too.

Here’s what happens when you design something without any consideration for the actual audience. The kitchen pass-through doesn’t actually fit the various serving platters.

More design in a vacuum. Notice the hanging adornments behind the bar, right at head level. The bartender can’t see his customers without ducking.

I don’t know why I like this one so much. The maitre d’ is always banging into the column, perfectly placed to be in the way. Also the entry isn’t wide enough for both the maitre d’ and guests to walk through so it’s always an awkward interaction.

If you look closely you can see the imprint of the chairs on the backs of the men’s suits. Nowadays maybe a Nintendo or Nike could get away with that, call it a guerilla marketing campaign, walk around with a logo on your back—it’s edgy!

The green neon cross beams it’s unappetizing glow over the food display. Who can decide what to eat? It all looks inedible and gross.

Thumbs up from me!

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