Jacques Tati and the Playtime Color Palette

Jacques Tati's Playtime famously, and sadly, bankrupted him. He obsessed over every detail for years, created a set so elaborate it was practically a "city" that became known as Tativille and removed all semblance of story or plot. Moviegoers, apparently, were not enthralled. To further complicate the matter, while most movies were still in the throes of full on technicolor rainbow assaults, Tati removed almost all color from his magnum opus. Every wall and floor, every chair or desk, every dress or suit is a variation on black, white, grey and dark blue. Even his ubiquitous character, Monsieur Hulot, seems to have lost most of the color in his argyle socks.






But, occasionally, a red appears:






Or a green:





Or both:




Throughout the movie, the colors are desaturated with only the occasional red or green making its way in front of the camera. As to the meaning of it all, that's up to you to figure out. Personally, I think Tati's idea, or the idea hoisted upon him by critics, of the modern world losing its soul to the homogenized sterility of mechanization is pretty basic and once photographed by Tati, a master of framing, rendered essentially meaningless. That is to say, he creates visuals so fascinating, intriguing and exquisite that any point about anything losing its soul is lost, a casualty to the sheer beauty, and soul, of the image on the screen.

And so, point or no point, I love the fact that there once was a director who obsessed so much about his vision that he went to the trouble of having entire buildings, floors, walls, dresses, suits and cars all play within a few millimeters of each other on the color wheel. Black, white, grey, blue. And then, suddenly, tantalizing glimpses of reds and greens.











All of which is to say, as far as visually obsessive directors go, Tati was one of the best. And someone I wish we had more of now.