I was very happy yesterday, as I managed to get to see Jacques Tati's "Play Time" in a cinema. I saw it originally in 70mm which was the way it was shot, and I remember how it doesn't work on television (so much of it depends on the long shot). It was uproarious...wonderful!
I had forgotten so many details. It takes me back to the 70s, when I was studying clowning, and made a point of seeking out ALL films with physical comedy in, and watching them analytically. Tati was always one of my favourites. Part of the reason is the genuine kindness behind the comedy - it is (at the most) teasing about other people's folly, never cruel or sarcastic. He is quoted as saying "I should like to make films that are not lowering to the spirit".
The close observation of the tiny comedy moments of everyday life is flawless, and was extremely relevant to me as a street performer (not working in the disciplined and controlled environment of the theatre).
His films do not force jokes on you - they use wide shots, so you can see the whole body (so much comedy is in legs), and can choose where to look on the screen. There are little details everywhere - and elegant visual jokes and echoes, as well as perhaps the most creative soundtracks ever.
He says he likes his films to be "about everybody but also about nobody big" and that is evident as your eye wanders around the frame, watching all the different characters who (in ordinary movies) would be merely 'extras'....