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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Video introduction by writer, director, and performer Terry Jones
  • Selected scene commentary by film historian Philip Kemp
  • Au-delŗ de "Playtime," a short documentary featuring archival behind-the-scenes footage from the set
  • Tati Story, a short biographical film about Tati
  • "Jacques Tati in Monsieur Hulot's Work," a 1976 BBC Omnibus program featuring Tati
  • Rare audio interview with Tati from the U.S. debut of Playtime at the 1972 San Francisco International Film Festival (Courtesy of Pacifica Radio Archives)
  • Video interview with script supervisor Sylvette Baudrot
  • Cours du soir, a 1967 short film written by and starring Tati
  • Alternate international soundtrack

Playtime

2006 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jacques Tati
Starring: Jacques Tati
1967 | 124 Minutes | Licensor: Les Films de Mon Oncle

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #112 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: September 5, 2006
Review Date: August 16, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

Jacques Tati's gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in the age of technology reached their creative apex with Playtime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the endearingly clumsy, resolutely old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a bafflingly modernist Paris. With every inch of its superwide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, Playtime is a lasting testament to a modern age tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion.

Forum members rate this film 8.8/10

 

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PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents their second DVD edition of Jacques Tatiís Playtime in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two-disc set. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Criterion previously released this on DVD and had to discontinue it due to rights issues. Luckily they were able to regain them (along with the rights to the other two Hulot films that were also discontinued, M. Hulotís Holiday and Mon oncle) and improve on the previous edition (unlike the other two films.) Playtime receives a new 2-disc edition with a new high-definition transfer that shows a huge improvement over the old DVD, which was a fuzzy mess loaded with artifacts and bizarre colours. Everything on this one has been drastically improved; itís quite sharper, colours look much better (despite the colour scheme being primarily sterile and metallic in nature,) and the print is in better shape (this version is also a little longer.)

The print is also cleaner, presenting little in the way of damage that is limited primarily to the opening credits. Still the transfer is problematic because of the film itself. Playtime is loaded with all sorts of intrinsic details and DVD canít really handle it. A lot of long shots, while looking much better than the old DVD, still look a fuzzy, and edge-enhancement is still a problem, though still nowhere near as bad as the old release.

Criterion has also seen fit to release this film on Blu-ray, which presents a sharp improvement over this one, containing more details and bringing the film to new life. For those that havenít made the upgrade to high-def yet this DVD is fine enough and is still worth upgrading to even if you own the old one (but I still recommend the Blu-ray over this one if you can get it.)

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The disc presents two Dolby 2.0 soundtracks tracks, one a ďFrenchĒ track and the other an ďInternationalĒ track. The International track is more of an ďEnglishĒ track in all honesty and I feel the French track is more ďinternationalĒ in nature since it contains more languages I felt.

In terms of quality they both sound good, presenting clean dialogue and music, and they both handle subtle effects rather well. They just both lack a punch and come off sort of flat in the end.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Not only has Criterion upgraded the digital transfer theyíve also upgraded the features. While porting over all the features from the single-disc edition theyíve added a number of great features examining the film and the making of it, spreading them over the two discs. All of these features were then ported over to the Blu-ray release.

For this Blu-ray everything is found under the ďSupplementsĒ of the pop-out menu.

The first disc first presents a Terry Jones Introduction running 6-minutes. It is the same introduction used for the original DVD. He talks about his initial shock at seeing the film was 70mm and just how wonderful the details were. He talks about the ďfaux HulotsĒ (one played by a friend of his) and the grand design of everything, and then again breaks down some gags. He also offers some background on the production (Tati constructed the set, dubbed ďTativilleĒ, making this the most expensive French production at the time) which eventually bankrupted the director, the film being a financial failure, which Jones seems to blame on the film being fairly alienating. Itís a nice intro and Iím glad Criterion has carried it over all of their editions.

Also on the first disc is a selected scene commentary by film historian Philip Kemp. For those unfamiliar with this type of track it is simply a commentary that plays over select scenes of the film instead of the entire film. So you donít have large lags the presentation skips through the film to Kempís comments. In total the track lasts over 46-minutes.

Itís an okay track, a little dry. Kemp talks about the troubled production of course and the Hulot character (and a bit about Tati), but throughout he mainly points out the look and design of the film, the sets, and describing some of the subtle details found throughout, and even breaking down some gags somewhat. He also has gathered some information from various people who worked on the film. I liked it overall but must admit Iím glad itís actually a fragmented track because Kemp can be a little dry in his presentation. The track has been divided into 7 chapters.

The remaining supplements are found on the second dual-layer disc.

First on this disc is Au delŗ de ďPlaytimeĒ is short 6-minute film covering the production, using behind-the-scenes footage shot during the making of the film and narrated by Stťphane Goudet, who also reads from notes made by Tati. Itís a shame itís so short but it manages to cover the troubled production fairly well from inception to its initial failure thanks to the American distributor refusing to handle it (and the film was apparently meant more for the American market) and also covers how the sets were put together with footage even showing the sets as theyíre being built (and then destroyed.) Short but to the point.

Tati Story is a 20-minute program offering a biography of sorts for Tati. It is narrated in French by Goudet and plays over archival photos and clips from various films, shorts and even his acceptance speech for his Cťsar díhonneur. Itís a decent short piece, quickly going through his early life and then film career and concluding with his death. It touches on Playtime briefly but itís not the central focus here, other than it leading to his bankruptcy. Criterionís DVD for Trafic presents a longer documentary on its second disc so for those that have seen that doc this one is more of a compressed version and you can probably feel safe in skipping it as I didnít feel it brought anything new to the table. For those unfamiliar with Tati and his work itís a pretty good crash course on the filmmaker.

ĒJacques Tati in M. Hulotís WorkĒ is a 49-minute BBC piece from 1976 featuring an interview with Tati taken at the Hotel de la Plage where M. Hulotís Holiday was filmed. The first bit of it focuses on comparing the hotel between the time period in the film and then in 1976 (and today I believe itís still there but is now a Best Western) with the interview actually beginning 10-minutes or so in. While there is a fair share of filler not featuring Tati edited in itís a rather charming interview, with Tati even (more or less) dawning the Hulot character in sequences. In English he talks about his work, the character of Hulot, the art of comedy, Playtime and modern France and its architecture (thereís a wonderful little moment where he points to a maquette of Hulotís home from Mon oncle and talks about how this older style of architecture has such life.) Itís a great interview piece and Tati makes a wonderful subject. Itís a longer feature but certainly one of the best features on here. Itís been divided into 7 chapters.

Tati at the San Francisco Film Festival presents audio excerpts from the American premiere of Playtime in 1972 where Tati held a discussion. Itís short, running almost 17-minutes (and divided into 4 chapters) and Tati answers some questions from members of the audience which range from the type of comedy to the use of 70mm. Tati also talks about Hulot and his minimal appearance in the film and the filmís acceptance in Europe. While his English is a little rough here heís still an engaging subject and itís wonderful actually hearing the man talk about his film. It plays over the menu.

Next is a 12-minute interview with Sylvette Baudrot who reflects on Playtime, talking about Tatiís attention to detail, the hard work that went into many sequences (a scene involving a man walking down a hallway apparently took 3 days to shoot) and the fact that a lot of the metallic walls were actually enlarged photos of metal. Itís brief but itís a great piece pointing out a lot of things that in all honesty Iíve just never noticed before. Itís a rather fun interview for this reason.

And making its way from the original DVD is the short film Cours du Soir, made around the same time as Playtime in 1967 and starring Jacques Tati and directed by Nicolas Rybowski, running about 28-minutes. Of the shorts found over the Hulot discs it may be my least favourite but itís not without its charms. In it Tati teaches a class on the subtleties of physical humour, and some of the humour found in here involves the students not being so good at it. I found it maybe a little too long but it works best as a sort of retrospective of Tatiís career, recalling some of his more popular moments (his postman even making an appearance.) It certainly looks better than how it looked on the previous DVD but is interlaced.

I rented this release so donít have access to the insert, but judging from the Criterion website it contains the same essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum that has been included with the Blu-ray where he reflects on seeing the film and then actually working for Tati. The original DVD had a solo essay by Kent Jones and while that one doesnít look to be found here based on the specs on Criterionís site I do actually prefer Rosenbaumís and wouldnít find Jonesí a huge loss.

A rather solid collection of supplements, Criterion gathering all they could about the film making it a fairly comprehensive special edition and the best of their releases of Tati films.

9/10

CLOSING

Itís a sharp improvement over the previous DVD and I recommend this to everyone looking to pick the film up or even own the previous release. The transfer is certainly an improvement and the supplements are overall informative and fascinating. If you have Blu-ray capabilities, though, I still recommend the Blu-ray edition as its transfer handles the film far better than DVD ever could.


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