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Criterion Coll: Playtime (Version française) [Import]

23 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Alain Fayner, Marc Monjou, Rita Maiden
  • Directors: Jacques Tati, Nicolas Ribowski
  • Writers: Jacques Tati, Art Buchwald, Jacques Lagrange
  • Producers: Bernard Maurice, René Silvera
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC, Import
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: May 22 2001
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005B1ZM

Product Description

Jacques Tati, the choreographer of the charming, comical ballet that is Playtime, casts the endearingly clumsy Monsieur Hulot as the principal character wandering through modernist Paris. Amid the babble of English, French and German tourists, Hulot tries to reconcile the old-fashioned ways with the confusion of the encroaching age of technology.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jun-Dai Bates-Kobashigawa on April 14 2002
Format: DVD
Playtime is comedy focused on detail. Many people find the film inaccessible because of its unconventional approach to storytelling. There _is_ a plot, and it is relatively straightforward, but the film is so removed from its dialogue (most of it isn't really audible, and is unsubtitled) that we must follow it visually. The film is also detached dramatically: There is so much going on within the frame that it can be difficult to know which events are connected to the main plot of the film, and which are connected to the rest of the film only thematically. Additionally, there are few occasions where the director guides our attention through close-ups, key lighting, or other conventional means. This means that the film is only likely to appeal to those who enjoy the comedy without the need for a conventional plot, or to those who look farther into the film (or both). Probably this is why the film was a commercial failure.
The film is visually dense: There are people wandering in and out of the frame constantly, and on many occasions there is more than one visual gag occurring at the same time. I doubt that there are any sections of the frame that are not used at some point in the film as a crucial element of some joke. Many of the jokes occur singly, and many of them are linked thematically to others throughout the scene, or throughout the film. Because of this, as a visual comedy this film is as close to music as I can imagine--at times it is acted out much like ballet (elements of synchronicity and counterpoint are common in this film). I don't know of any film that has this level of choreographed detail (not even Peter Greenaway).
The film is more than just style, however. All of its jokes exist under certain themes that run throughout the film.
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By Wayne A. on April 13 2004
Format: DVD
This is the best example of Tati's experimental approach to humor. In fact it's sort of a cubist comedy with multiple layering of material and no discernible plot in any recognizable sense. Yet it works, it works well, and at no time will you feel it's aimless or merely episodic. Sounds a bit intellectual but this film is actually filled with endless great sight gags and some of the best slapstick you'll ever encounter. Keaton aside, this has two of the best "falls" in comedy. Also, the nightclub scene at the end is a masterpiece of timing and coordination. It reminds me of classic jazz improvisation. Like Keaton's "The General" this movie bombed when it was released but I'm betting it'll eventually be added to the list of great comedies of all time. Hopefully Criterion will re-release this soon and keep it in print.
Two caveats: I've noticed that people who expect comedies to be consistently manic and/or aren't accustomed to the slower pacing of many French films don't care much for this movie. It does require the focused attention of its audience to work. Also, the film was originally released in some oddball format that doesn't always translate effectively to the home screen. Because of this one major routine doesn't work quite as well as intended. It's not a major problem though.
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Format: DVD
I don't propose to write lengthing about Tati's masterpiece; I shall merely reiterate that Playtime is the 2001 of comedies.
My issues are with the quality of presentation on the DVD.
The transfer of the mono mix of the 35mm print of the film is as good as can be expected, and the subtitling adds another dimension over the International version, picking out "key" bits of dialogue (although none is essential). The sleeve notes explain that the location of the original elements, and thus the 65mm negative and stereo (or quadrophonic!) soundtrack have been lost, for the time being, but I urge you not to be put off by this.
It has already been discussed that some 4:3 material has been flagged as anamorphic, such that a television will stretch out images that should never have been stretched, causing some problems with subtitles being distorted. This is annoying and sloppy, requiring a manual correction when viewed each time; a moron in a hurry should have spotted this error, and I am very diappointed that Criterion have not been more punctilious.
Further, the very end of the film is supposed to be a fade to black while the music keeps playing to the end; there is about 30s overlap there. However, on this transfer, the music fades out as soon as the film is over. This gives the film an abrupt ending which has a very different effect to the proper version, as released by the British Film Institute on VHS in the UK.
Having said that, I urge you still to buy this disc, as it is good enough to get a high quality of this great film into your home. I am just disappointed at Criterion.
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By Jay Dickson on April 21 2002
Format: DVD
Tati spent years working on this, the summa of all his comedic direction. PLAYTIME is a study of a day and night in an unrecognizable Paris, where modernist architecture have all but obliterated the city everyone remembers. Tati's point is that this is what urban life has done to Western civilization worldwide (indeed, in the film we frequently see travel posters advertising foreign cities where the same ugly concrete skyscraper appears, blocking out the views of more distinctive landmarks behind it.) But Tati's genius is that he doesn't linger on nostalgia: no matter what has been lost, Tati's characters must move forward and make do with what they've been given. This point is gorgeously made in the film when, fleetingly, the cupolas of Sacre Coeur and the spire of the Eiffel Tower are seen as reflections in glassed doorways. As we see these reflected images, the characters in the film look back at these pre-contemporary landmarks, softly sigh, and then move forward with the modernist Paris they have been given to work in and with.
But the pleasure of PLAYTIME is that this modernist Paris may be ugly but it's all a kind of glass-and-cement playground for adults: everything in Tati's Paris is breaking down and is hopelessly confusing, but this is a source of tremendous fun for the viewer--and ultimately, for the film's participants. The story follows Tati's French Everyman, the endearingly clumsy Monsieur Hulot, as his path takes him in and out of a group of American tourists (their dialogue, written by Art Buchwald, becomes most memorable when they visit a technology fair: "Ooh, and it's so pratical!" one of them intones, as she watches a model demonstrate new eyeglasses with lift-up lenses for doing one's eyeshadow.
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