Zazie dans le métro
I have seen a lot of comparisons of this film to the work of one of my all-time favorite directors, Jacques Tati. I think those comparisons are specious. While it’s true that Malle, incidentally also a favorite of mine, is playing in some of the same universes as, say, PlayTime, his approach is missing some fundamental characteristics that make any comparison fall flat.
The first of those is timing. Even PlayTime, Tati’s most rambunctious film, doesn’t have jokes and sketches that are anything close to the rapid fire pace of this film. Tati allows things to breathe. There is a natural rhythm to the humor and to the setups. This careens from joke to joke, with so little space that I got exhausted watching it. It doesn’t create a sense of the modern world gone mad as much as another world where there never was any sense to begin with.
The second thing missing is that Tati is ultimately a very humanist director, and so there’s a good naturedness about everyone in his films. The humor comes from the bumbling aspect of existence, not the ill intentions of any specific people. Another way to put this is that Tati’s work is beautiful, even as it’s skewering that beauty. This film is ugly. It has a specific 60s preoccupation with ugliness as a source of humor. It’s something I find extremely off-putting. Pedophilia and rape are not inherently funny.
Ultimately my issue might be as simple as I don’t like slapstick. I never have. My favorite parts of this film are the times when the humor is smart, or the antics are zany in a cartoon sense. My least favorite part is everything else. Unfortunately the everything else is the majority of the film, which leaves me ultimately feeling very cold about the whole endeavor.