Thursday, March 29, 2007


Man, I could see a movie every day in this metropolitan area. Killing time before making my way to Maryland this afternoon, I went to the National Portrait Gallery* where I finally looked at the titular portrait collection. I'd relegated this museum to the end of my list because it didn't seem all that inspiring: portraits might be well-painted, and certainly provide a who's-who of those rich or famous enough to commission them, but come on: frame after frame of lugubrious dark gravitas mixed into sitting men. Snore. Except, like all things I know very little about, this was far more interesting than that. Not the least of several moments of surprised enthrall came in front of that portrait of Benjamin Franklin one sees everywhere. I am far more familiar with the painting than the man, right?; to me, Ben Franklin is that painting. Standing there, I realized I was sort of star-struck. Eventually, I made my way to Silver Springs, where AFI* is showing Jacques Tati's mind-blowingly superb Playtime* in 70mm. This genius meditation on the bafflement of modern living follows, among others, a group of US tourists, a puzzled uncle, and an officious office manager navigating a bleached and polished stainless-plastic-glass corner of Paris. The scenery is a mindless modern xtopia spinning in a funny clockwork of sound, movement, and syncopated comedic imbroglio.* The characters either lend a warm human heart to their Goldbergian existence, or simply throw their hands up and dance. Occasionally a cinematic "City of Lights" is glimpsed in reflected glass or on distant horizons, but this is not the Paris we've come to expect. Within the frame of this almost dialog-free illustration of a loco-scape constructed without difference to those destined to people it, all is corporate steel, modern calamity, and traffic. [Cavin]

Then, a 1 sided conversation ensued...

To which Blogger Mr. Cavin added:

*I cannot talk this movie up enough. Tati spent almost three years painstakingly shooting it in a small city he built for the purpose on the outskirts of Paris. It's one of those movies I wish was another two hours longer. Its been a holy grail for a while, since it was out-of-print for so long in a Criterion Collection edition of the DVD (it's back in print, now—I assume Janus Films has something to do with the American release of the remastered print that I saw in the theater). I am glad, in a way, that I was forced to wait and watch it here. Besides the obvious plusses involved with seeing a brilliant movie in 70mm on the big screen, it was just a real treat to walk out of he theater and into the bustling commuter center of Silver Springs, a not altogether inappropriate 2007 stand-in for the movie's 1967 future-phobic "Tati-town." It was difficult not to add the city sounds around me up into a driving soundtrack; it was impossible not to try to walk in time with everyone else. Everything looked entirely different. The movie resounded.

Friday, March 30, 2007 1:09:00 PM  

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