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I suppose many will say Casablanca’s portrayal of Rick’s Cafe Americana takes the cake.   For the barbarians, there are a number of  “wild and crazy” 80s movies that always seemed depressing to me (I can never forget, or really forgive, the fact that Tom Hanks’ entry into Hollywood stardom was through Bachelor Party), and for those who really love getting depressed and angst-y, maybe it’s that faculty party from hell featured in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?   For those who want spectacle, I suppose this year’s Gatsby might fit the bill, and for those with a hippie aesthetic, they might want The Doors or Taking Woodstock.  

Well, surely I’m forgetting tons of good ones...probably Capra had a good one in one of his films...but, in any case, what do you think?


My favorite movie party is the one in Jacques Tati’s Playtime.  The film is all about living in the ultra-modern, not simply with a critical eye and a nostalgia for the old (as in his Mon Oncle), but one alive to the absurd aspects, and to the opportunities present in those aspects for bringing out the fun.  It’s as if Jacques Tati had heard The Modern Lovers sing Well the modern world, it’s not so bad, not like the students say, in fact I’d be in heaven, if you’d share the modern world with me!  before they ever did.  

The party scene is the opening night at a new swanky extra-modern restaurant and night club, The Royal Garden.  Nothing really works out the way the fancy architect had planned, all kinds of funny stuff is going wrong, such as the special chairs ripping the waiters’ uniforms, providing for one visual gag after another, and that’s on top of the inherent awkwardness of a new set of people meeting one another in a new setting.  

The jazz band is quite good, and the dancing is itself impressive, but still, people aren’t exactly having that good of a time.  The way the really good time starts is a) our hero Hulot accidentally causes some of the interior design stuff to fall down, and b) a stereotypical “ugly American” drunken big-spender spontaneously play-acts/creates his own “club within a club” amid the wreckage of the modern club.  Within the club, a group of people now really meet one another, begin to really “play” with one another, which results in their truly coming together, over their spontaneously provided own sentimental music.  They needed more than just the hot modern jazz and hip dancing.  That is, Tati is showing us that that American is the opposite of ugly, but the one who really brings the playtime to life, who spontaneously creates community out of an awkward situation.  And Tati’s main lesson is plain:  it is better to laugh over modernity’s ineptness, and to locate the sweet spots of unexpected human connection somewhere there in it, than to lament over it.  

But most of all, it’s just a good time.  And it’s plenty bueno that the edited you-tube video below (I hope!) of this scene from the French film is (ineptly) dubbed in Spanish, because Tati was always the director who least needed dialogue to get his mainly visual comedy across.  Besides, it’s the only one I could get!  Hopefully, it’ll make it into this post, but if not, go rent Playtime and enjoy the whole thing.

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