Born Jacques Tatischeff (9 October 1907 – 5 November 1982) was a French filmmaker, actor and screenwriter. Throughout his long career, he worked as a comic actor, writer, and director.
Considered by many his masterpiece, Playtime (1967), shot in 70 mm, was to be the most ambitious yet risky and expensive work of Tati’s career. After the success of Mon Oncle in 1958, Jacques Tati had become fed up with Monsieur Hulot, his signature comic creation. With international renown came a growing dissatisfaction with straightforward scenarios centered around one lovable, recognizable figure. So he slowly inched his way toward a new kind of film, a supremely democratic film that would be about “everybody”.
“Playtime is the big leap, the big screen. I’m putting myself on the line. Either it comes off or it doesn’t. There’s no safety net.” On the outskirts of Paris, Tati famously built an entire glass and steel mini-city (nicknamed Tativille) for the film, which took years to build and left him mired in debt.
In the film, Hulot and a group of American tourists lose themselves in the futuristic glass and steel of commercially globalised modern Parisian suburbs, where only human nature and a few reflective views of the old city of Paris, itself, still emerge to breathe life into the sterile new metropolis. Playtime had even less of a plot than his earlier films, and Tati endeavored to make his characters, including Hulot, almost incidental to his portrayal of a modernist and robotic Paris.