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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • In the Footsteps of Monsieur Hulot, a two-part documentary from 1989 by director Jacques Tati's daughter Sophie Tatischeff
  • In the Ring, a 2013 visual essay by Tati expert Ste?phane Goudet about Tati's appreciation for the circus, clowns, and mime
  • "An Homage to Jacques Tati," a 1982 episode of the French television program Magazine featuring a tribute to Tati by his friend and set designer Jacques LaGrange

Parade

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jacques Tati
1974 | 89 Minutes | Licensor: Les Films de Mon Oncle

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $124.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #731
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: October 28, 2014
Review Date: November 11, 2014

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SYNOPSIS

For his final film, Jacques Tati takes his camera to the circus, where the director himself serves as master of ceremonies. Though it features many spectacles, including clowns, jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, and more, Parade also focuses on the spectators, making this stripped-down work a testament to the communion between audience and entertainment. Created for Swedish television (with Ingmar Bergman's legendary director of photography Gunnar Fischer serving as one of its cinematographers), Parade is a touching career send-off that recalls its maker's origins as a mime and theater performer.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion presents the final feature film by Jacques Tati, Paradeómaking its reemergence into the collection after being previously released on LaserDisc by them in their box set The Complete Jacques Tatióin its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

Originally produced for Scandinavian television and released later in theaters, Tatiís film is somewhat unorthodox in how it was made. Itís hard to explain what the film is exactly: part of it seems to be just a simple document of a circus performance led by Tati for a live audience, while another part has a sort of backstage story thrown in featuring some of Tatiís usual film gags. Tati gathered together various performances (acrobats, singers, animal trainers, jugglers, magicians, etc.) and actually filmed what I believe were rehearsals on a soundstage in 1971 on 16mm and 35mm film, as well as video, and then a live 1973 performance using video, editing all of this together to create the illusion of a seamless evening, though blurring the line between what is real and what is ďperformedĒ so to speak (Tatiís intention of course.) Some backstage material was also shot using a mix of 16mm and video.

Getting to the technical side of the high-definition presentation here I feel the release represents the film as well as possible. At least half of the footage (more than likely more) was shot on video, so most of the film is going to look only as good as video allows. The video sequences actually deliver some impressive colours with some rich reds and oranges, far better than I could ever imagine video doing so I suspect thereís been a lot of colour manipulation. The image suffers from every other limitation of the format, though. Detail is non-existent, a bit of a shame considering the stage Tati has put together, and the image of course has that fuzzy, analog video look with plenty of aliasing. Definition is not good, with blurry edges, and ghosting can be very noticeable, especially during some of the quicker movements during the performance. None of this is a knock against the digital transfer of these sequences, which does what it can; itís unfortunately just a side-effect of the material used for filming and no tinkering is going to make it look much better. This is simply just how it looks and in all honesty it will more than likely never look better.

Thankfully this isnít a case similar to Criterionís Blu-ray release of Steven Soderberghís And Everything is Going Fine, which was made up entirely of video and standard-definition footage. In that case I did feel a DVD release was good enough and a Blu-ray edition was probably unnecessary (though I had to give them credi for at least sticking with the format, when other independent labels still seem wary of it) but Parade still features footage shot on film, and these sequences really do look spectacular here. I can only imagine on previous video releases the transitions from video to film sequences wouldnít have been noticeable, but theyíre clear as day here. The 16mm sequences are a bit grainier (though not overly so) and their colours can come off a bit duller in comparison to the rest of the film; Iím not sure if this is intended or just how it is in the source. But the image is sharp and detail is certainly improved over the video sequences. Grain is rendered nicely and naturally, and I donít recall any damage or blemishes.

The 35mm material, though, looks outstanding. Colours look wonderful and natural, and the level of detail present is exceptional, even in long shots, exposing textures and fine details totally lacking in the rest of the film. Film grain is fine and clean but rendered nicely. This footage looks great, and it certainly makes the Blu-ray worthwhile.

The video footage is what it is but those involved have done what they can to make sure itís at least presented in as fine a manner as possible. The film footage looks spectacular on the other hand, and the transfer manages to deliver a nice filmic image during these portions.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Though Tati used video tape for a good chunk of the film it appears he at least used higher-end audio equipment throughout: the lossless mono PCM track sounds quite good. Dialogue, music, and effects all come off clear and distinct, and thereís some decent fidelity to the whole affair. The audio track is clean and free of distortion and damage.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Parade gets some more in love with supplements in comparison to Trafic, which was oddly looked over for the most part. Parade actually gets a very specific feature in another of Stephanť Goudetís video essays, In the Ring, offering an analysis of the film. He goes over the development of the film and then Tatiís possible motives for doing it, with one of the main reasons probably being it was his homage, of sorts, to the dying art of vaudeville performances. He touches on the melancholy themes that can be found throughout then examines the various acts Tati performs, some of which he had developed some 40 years earlier with Goudet even reading from a late 30ís article about Tatiís acts. Goudet also talks about what Tati worked on after the film, including the soccer documentary Forza Bastia (which his daughter actually finished for him, and it is included on the seventh disc of this set) and Confusion, which Tati never got the chance to film. Itís a nice essay on Hulotís swan song and his late career as a whole. It runs about 28-minutes.

Criterion next includes the lengthy, two-part 1989 documentary In the Footsteps of Monsieur Hulot, which was included on Criterionís original, now discontinued DVD edition of Trafic prior. Directed by Tatiís daughter, Sophie Tatischeff, and running under 104-minutes total, it covers Tatiís career from his early films to his Hulot films and then finally Parade. Itís primarily made up of interview segments with Tati, his guest spots on other shows, and clips from Award shows. It also mixes in clips from his films, behind-the-scene segments (primarily from Playtime) and general footage. Divided into two parts it is extremely extensive and gives an excellent portrait of the man. In the interview segments Tati talks a lot about his films, discussing his themes, his techniques, and what his ultimate desire was (basically to make people smile,) along with how he observes things around him. These discussions alone make the documentary worth watching. My favourite segment would have to involve the making of PlayTime, a production Iíve been fascinated with after first seeing the film, but overall the documentary is quite strong and was a treat for me since admittedly I actually didnít know all that much about Tati (after making my way through this set that has certainly been resolved.) It concludes with Tati accepting a Cťsar díhonneur and expressing his support for short films, and then gives a glimpse at the restoration of the colour version of Jour de fÍte, which would have been in its early stages when this was made. An excellent documentary and Iím glad it did make its way to this set.

ĒAn Homage to Jacques TatiĒ features a 15-minute interview with Tatiís frequent collaborator Jacques Lagrange. Filmed for the French television program Magazine in 1982, Lagrange talks about how he first came to work with Tati, and talks in detail about his designs, particularly the design of the central house in Mon oncle, which he came under fire for from the architectural community. He also talks a bit about Tati himself, complementing him on his powers of observation, and even goes into a little detail about Confusion, the film Tati was planning for before he death. Itís a great little interview and nice way to close the disc.

In all it may be one of the slighter set of supplements to be found in the set but it still features some excellent material, the full-length documentary probably being the strongest inclusion of an already strong set.

8/10

CLOSING

The transfer is obviously limited by the video tape source that makes up a good chunk of the film but it does what it can with it and the moments sourced from film look exceptional. The disc also features a strong smattering of supplements, including what may be one of the best in the entire box set, In the Footsteps of Monsieur Hulot.


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