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Play Time (1967) Comedy, 124 minutes, French, English and German Language Directed by Jacques Tati Starring Jacques Tati and Barbara Dennek
There are many different types of comedy. Play Time is a combination of physical humor, farce and clever observational humor. There's very little dialogue, so don't be put off by the French, English and German language included in the description. This is all about watching a series of events and seeing the absurdity of it all.
Jacques Tati dedicated nine years of his life to the film and it was in production for three years. The sets were giant and the cast enormous. If you are familiar with Tati, you'll know that his Monsieur Hulot character appeared in four of his films and one short story. Play Time is the most celebrated, but the venture resulted in Tati declaring bankruptcy.
There isn't a plot as such, but the story opens in an airport. I think Tati was trying to show how vast and impersonal airports are. He also shows a lot of technology and demonstrates how ludicrous it is. In an early scene, he has a meeting in an office building. It's made of glass and contains dozens of identical cubicles. His arrival is logged on a computer, but the result is anything but efficient. In a comedy of errors, he keeps failing to make his presence known to the right person.
Hulot is a helpful person at heart, but everything he touches results in chaos. He improves some things and ruins others. Unlike just about every film in existence, Play Time doesn't focus on its characters. Instead of showing personal interactions, we see rooms, stores and streets filled with people. There are multiple interactions at all times. If you watch Play Time several times, you'll see something new every time.Read more ›
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Long before Mr. Bean, Jacques Tati unleashed M. Hulot on the scene. I saw this movie in a theatre over thirty years ago, and along with Mr. Hulot's Holiday, his first classic, I am glad Amazon has made them both available on DVD. If one enjoys gentle, subtle humour arising out of everyday events, I highly recommend both of these films.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Whether it's a masterpiece or a failure or both, Playtime remains an essential Tati movieNov. 1 2006
C. O. DeRiemer
- Published on Amazon.com
Why was Playtime a failure, sending Jacques Tati into bankruptcy and costing him control over his life's work of films? His previous film, My Uncle, had been a commercial and artistic success. M. Hulot's Holiday and Jour de Fete had gained Tati world-wide recognition and respect. He had become recognized as one of the few authentic geniuses of film.
Watch Playtime and I think you'll find the answer. Tati in his earlier films placed Hulot in situations where we could empathize with him. Hulot was an innocent. As we came to like him, we also came to like the people he encountered. Even with their pretensions and idiosyncrasies, we could see something of ourselves in them. Tati might be holding up a mirror for us to look in, but M. Hulot was such a gentle companion that we smiled as we recognized ourselves.
With Playtime, there is little Hulot. Instead, we have Tati's view on all sorts of social and cultural issues, from the sterility he saw in much of modern life to modern architecture, group behavior, impersonal offices, loneliness, boorishness and American tourists. We're observers, and our job is to share Tati's viewpoint. Hulot, now middle-aged, has become a minor player in the film. In his earlier movies, Tati was careful to give us small numbers of people with whom, along with Hulot, we could come to know. In My Uncle, for instance, it was essentially one family and one modern home, along with Hulot's own apartment and his neighbors. In M. Hulot's Holiday, it was a small seaside hotel and its guests. With Playtime, we have a large, impersonal office building, all glass and right angles, filled with people -- employees, visitors, exposition guests, customers. Then we have an apartment building with huge curtain-less windows allowing the pedestrians to look right in, and we're among the pedestrians. Then we have a nightclub filled with customers, waiters and managers. There is little opportunity to get to know any of these people, much less develop affection for them.
However, as with all his movies, Tati fills Playtime with streams of intricate and carefully developed comic situations (although comic is too broad a term), often that build from small happenings we've barely noticed. There is only sporadic and incidental dialogue, but sound effects are vital to the movie, as subtle and amusing as what we see.
As sterile and unattractive as Tati makes the airport, the office building, a convenience store and the apartment, there are such odd and subtle sights as the bobbing wimple wings on two nuns, a floor sweeper staring at a booted officer, Hulot suddenly sliding down a floor, glass windows and doors impossible to tell if they're there or not, a table lamp that dispenses cigarettes, strange-looking and wobbling food at a self-service counter...and the list simply goes on. And it's not just one thing at a time. Tati can fill a screen with all sorts of amusing occurrences, some happening in the foreground, some in back, some at the sides.
The last hour of the movie takes place in a modern nightclub, the Royal Garden, which has just opened and is barely ready for its customers. A dance floor tile sticks to a maitre d's shoe, a fish is ostentatiously finished table-side by a waiter...then finished again and again by mistake while the two customers ooh and ah. A bow tie falls in the sauce. A bus-load of tourists suddenly appear. When Hulot manages to accidently shatter one of the glass doors to the restaurant, it is a culmination to all those glass walls we've been looking through and walking into. The follow-up gag with the round door opener is almost worth the price of the DVD. As the modern restaurant gradually disintegrates around us, Tati finally begins to ease up on personal viewpoints and let's us simply enjoy the sight of people becoming more like people. And that, I suspect, is the point Tati wanted to make. In an odd sort of way, the last ten minutes evoke the humor and warmth of previous Tati movies...a packed traffic circle with all the cars moving slowly together; a father taking a toy horn from his little boy and blowing it, too; the bittersweet last look at Hulot walking past a bus where a young woman he met at the nightclub is being taken to the airport with her tourist group.
If you like Tati's viewpoint on the impersonalization of modern society, you'll probably like Playtime. Some critics call it his masterpiece. If you like Tati, I think Playtime is essential, if only to understand what happened to him. The movie is an idiosyncratic and gallant failure, in my view, and much too long. Still, I'd rather watch Playtime than most of what passes as genius in films today.
The new Criterion release looks very good. This edition has several extra features including supplements about Tati and an audio interview with him. The case also contains an insert with an essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum, identified as a film critic.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Blu-ray: I absolutely love this film! It may not be for everyone but for Tati fans, a wonderful BD release!Nov. 16 2009
Dennis A. Amith
- Published on Amazon.com
French director Jacques Tati is considered as one of the best directors of all time. Known for his comedic work in France, his character Monsieur Hulot has appeared in several successful comedic films such as "Juor de Fete", M. Hulot's Holday", "Mon Oncle", "Traffic" but there is one film that will be his accolade. That film is "Playtime".
Considered a masterpiece by critics, the film was also a commercial failure and was the most expensive film ever created in France as Tati created a set featuring a whole city block with high rise buildings that looked incredibly real. But the film was ahead of its time.
"Playtime" is a visual film with no significant plot, nor does it have much dialogue. It's a film that is driven by its many characters onscreen and the elaborate setup as characters, buildings and vehicles are treated with so much detail on the film, that it just a feast for ones easy as Tati absolutely created a film that was sheer brilliance.
But part of the problem was his risky gamble on 70 mm widescreen and stereophonic sound. Many theaters were not equipped to handle that and to make things worse (but understandable) is the lack of dialogue which can easily turn off audiences. So, needless to say, the film didn't do well in France and also in America.
It's after Tati died in 1982, is when people found admiration in his work and seeing how his films were truly amazing.
"Playtime" is like a smorgasbord of life being changed by modern technology and as Tati was known to do, lambast modern society as he was a man that was definitely "old school" to the time of his death.
The film revolves around Tati's famous character Monsieur Hulot and an American tourist named Barbara.
For Monsieur Hulot, he easily gets lost in the city and leads him to adventures to various areas such as an office building (which he had a problem with today's modern architecture) as he gets lost trying to get to his meeting and ends up being pulled away to a high-tech trade expedition, a high-tech apartment and then leads him to nightclub known as the Royal Guarden.
As for Barbara, she just wants to experience the beauty of Paris. She accompanies her (loud) American friends but she rather enjoy France her own way. Obviously Barbara had different ideas in mind of Paris but instead she receives a modernize setting.
The film culminates with the carousel of cars as Barbara must leave the city and sees almost a carousel/parade of all these vehicles all around her and how all the people react. What we see is a city that has been transformed to a festive, enormous metropolitan playground.
"Playtime" focuses on these two characters (and other characters who shows up more than once), Tati showcases modernization (which looks beautiful) but it's that demolishing of the France that he loves and now getting used to this new France is what makes "Playtime" quite entertaining.
Viewers can watch "Playtime" with its original French audio but also an International version which features the film in English.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Playtime" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio). Accord to Criterion, the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. The HD digital transfer was created on Spirit Datacine from the 35mm reduction internegative made from the 65 mm interpositive. Thousands of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixl Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.
"Playtime" is featured in its original French language but also a alternate International soundtrack which features a few scenes with English dub.
As for the audio, the audio is presented in lossless stereo. Criterion mentions that the soundtrack for "Playtime" was remastered at 24-bit from the orignal stereo audio stems. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube's integrated audio workstation.
Subtitles are provided in English.
"Playtime" comes with the following special features:
* Video introduction by writer, director, and performer Terry Jones - (6:13) Terry Jones talks about "Playtime" and what he remembered when he watched in on the theater for the first time, what he thought about the film and also a little information about Jacques Tati. * Selected scene commentary by film historian Philip Kemp - (46:44) A well done commentary by Philip Kemp as he talks about certain scenes from the film. Kemp definitely giving an intelligent and yet smooth delivery for commentary for the film. Very informative! * Au-delà de "Playtime," a short documentary featuring behind-the-scenes footage from the production - (6:30) Featuring a behind-the-scenes look of how the set was created for "Playtime" and video footage of Jacques Tati with the cast and crew. * Tati Story, a short biographical film - (20:38) A featurette celebrating the work of director Jacques Tati. Featuring photos and video of Jacques Tati from when he was a child to when worked on his final film. Very good insight to Tati's personal life and his career. * "Jacques Tati in Monsieur Hulot's Work," a 1976 BBC Omnibus program featuring Tati - (49:28) Featuring an interview conduced by Gavin Millar who interviews Tati at the Hotel de la Plage about M. Hulot and films that the character has appeared in. * 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) - Featuring Jacques Tati at the 1972 SF International Film Festival (discussion moderated by Albert Johnson) and insight of Tati's feelings of the film being showing in the US and his appreciation for the American fans who enjoyed the film. A great audio recording that gives us insight of Jacques Tati. * Video interview with script supervisor Sylvette Baudrot - (12:09) Sylvette Baudrot talks about working on the film and reveals some secrets of how Tati made this film work. * Cours du soir, a 1967 short film written by and starring Tati - (27:41) A short film in which features Tati teaching a mime class.
Also, included is an essay (in the insert) by Jonathan Rosenbaum (a film critic for the Chicago Reader from 1987-2000) titled "The Dance of Playtime".
"Playtime" happened to be the first Jacques Tati film that I have ever watched. I was familiar with his character of M. Hulot but for years, I have wanted to watch and experience the film.
The first thing that I found surprising is the attention to detail as the unbelievable set Tati's company had created was just fantastic. The buildings look modern, the set looks like a major section of Paris with all the people, buildings and vehicles. And sure enough, "Playtime" is a film that utilizes everything on screen to show how modern technology has literally chanted the landscape. Some who embrace the changes and convenience of modernization and some who feel they are left behind and are literally lost.
What makes this film work outside of its incredible set is that Tati is a perfectionist. He literally directs each person in the film. Everyone has an import part to play. May it be how characters have this choreographed walk as they go off in several directions to characters at a restaurant as we see people dancing on the dance floor, each person dancing differently. While servants are trying to get the food out and you see visual gags as one servant clearly has their eyes on something inside the club, while another is attentive to the female patrons and those who are desperately trying to get their food out. It may seem chaotic, but Tati knows what he wanted to get onscreen and succeeds.
"Playtime" features absolutely beautiful cinematography as we see bungalows on the work floor which work almost like a maze. We see buildings that appear to be metallic and the lighting automatically synchronizing when they turn on. We see vehicles move almost in synch with other vehicles.
We see people throughout the city in similar routines at work, we see people promoting the latest in modern technology ala the late 60's and what is most amazing is that there is hardly any dialogue. It's like you are given an upfront look at how life is in the city and seeing how various people react to each other.
The film plays out quite interesting as the first half is dedicated to various characters such as M. Hulot who has a business meeting but ends up getting lost in all the modern settings. Barbara is a tourist who has accompanied several American women to Paris and finds the city to be quite breathtaking. We see Monsieur Hulot getting lost in offices from buildings that look alike.
But then the second half of the film focuses on a nightclub known as The Royal Garden that is opening and yet not ready. We see how the builders and the restaurant staff prepare for their major night despite the nightclub not yet ready. Where the first half was quite visual, the second half focuses more intimately on the people of the nightclub and the film becomes more gag-driven but yet with so many people in the film, Tati did a wonderful job in making sure each character had some part in the film and contributed in some fun or hilarious way.
A visual film without dialogue may seem boring and monotonous but fortunately Jacques Tati included a good number of gags to make the whole 124 minutes a bit lively. I did feel the film went a little long and that scenes could have been cut but with Jacques Tati putting all his energy into this film, I understand how difficult it was for him to even cut any scene out. But I do feel that the film could have been much shorter but then again, I would have been curious to see Tati's original, longer cut.
If anything, I really enjoyed what Tati did to create such a beautiful film. Three years of his life and also the crew and talent who made this film a reality is very much appreciated as I was entertained visually and I just felt so much respect for Tati after the film was completed. I did find it a bit disheartening to learn how this film which cost over $15 million (which was incredible for 1967 and was the most expensive French film at the time) caused problems for Tati as he was left bankrupt and unfortunately damaged his career. As much as it was critically well-received, it was a failure in the box office but partly that was because Tati chose 70 mm instead of 35 mm and Stereophonic sound which many theaters were not equipped to play during that time.
The Criterion Collection really did a great job in presenting "Playtime" on Blu-ray. The film looked absolutely beautiful for a film that is over 40 years old and because this film and what takes place onscreen is so immense that each time you watch this film, you will see things that you just didn't catch the first time. You can't help be amazed of how Tati and crew were able to create a modernized city. Tati made sure to really utilize his large cast in this film and what you see maybe different from what others are seeing because there are many things going on in the background. So, definitely a film that I have no doubt will require multiple rewinds because too much is happening in one sitting.
Also, The Criterion Collection edition of "Playtime" on Blu-ray features many special features that Jacques Tati fans will enjoy.
I've heard that the film is a statement by Tati of how much society has changed along with the city he has loved. The modernization with the use of electronics in buildings and restaurants and just making sure he has enough gags to make the audience laugh. If only Tati can see how much has changed today, that would definitely be an entertaining script.
A film that showcases beauty in various ways. This is absolute a film that was the highlight of Jacques Tati's career and despite how this film may have done in the box office, anyone watching now and seeing what the director was able to accomplish with no discernible plot and very little dialogue is fantastic. And again, the visuals are just fantastic. I was really blown away with how beautiful and intricate of a film "Playtime" truly is.
"Playtime" is highly recommended!
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Requires Active Viewing ParticipationJan. 3 2007
Brian P. Nestor
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a singular masterpiece in film making but totally unlike anything, even for it's day. By today's attention deficit disorder standards, this film is really really odd. But no doubt it is a masterpiece if the viewer is willing to put the effort in to catch all the nuances because this is a film of nothing but nuances. Tati himself is just one of many participants.
There is a plot of sorts dealing with a group of female American tourists and the one women who is the odd duck among them. She meets Tati and they spend the night together dancing at a night club and see in the dawn at a coffee shop. Various bits of business are constantly swirling around them and you could view this picture 10 times before seeing everything. There are many jokes but they are gentle visual puns. Don't expect belly laughs, just a wry but amazing view on modern life.
As is standard practice for Criterian these days the extras on disc two are spectacular. The documentaries on Tati's life and this film are brilliant and helped me understand his art and this film much better.
A gentle film with brilliant use of wide screen (this film would make no sense pan and scan) you need to fall into the picture to enjoy it. But there is an endless wealth of material to enjoy.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Genius in the finest form.Aug. 26 2009
Colin M. Maguire
- Published on Amazon.com
To say too much or to say too little? I see greatness here, and the more I learn about this film and Jacques Tati, the brilliant, wonderful Jacques Tati, the more I admire this great piece of film treasure. Tati is one of these pure joys that came out of nowhere in my life, and has now fueled me beyond belief. I am in love. This is a film fan's greatest wish - to find unexpected little gems like this one and to have it consume them until it becomes an obsession, and then familiar, like an old comfy hat. This is a masterpiece, and it gives me faith in the human race when I see someone go all-out like this. This may have been folly - but we are so very, very lucky to have this precious classic!! I grew up with Gilliam's folly, Brazil, and it is so nice to see another person putting themselves so far out over the edge for the sake of TRYING TO SAY SOMETHING IN THE GUISE OF COMEDY. This is a remarkable film - and the commentaries on these discs, the Terry Jones intro, the making of features - it's all tremendous, and I cannot recommend it enough. We have movie clowns today who waste their time farting and looking at booties and hating so indirectly -- you see something like this, and it's like...we need more. That's all I can really say: we need more like these. This is visionary, and a gift for the ages. Remarkable, brave, timeless. This is what film is about.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes we cannot see what is right in front of our nose...Feb. 27 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
`Playtime' is not a film for everyone so please be forewarned that my praising of this film may or may not mirror your sentiments if you ever decide to see this picture. `Playtime' is what I like to call an observational film. This is a picture that says a lot without ever really saying anything. The dialog is limited to overheard conversations and brief character interactions and is best thought of as background noise. In fact, Jacques Tati's moving film is best described as Robert Altman meets Charlie Chaplin; a moderately comedic film that lives and breathes within the audience's interpretation of the proceedings.
If ever a film defined the phrase `beauty is in the eye of the beholder', this is it.
The film is really, plot wise, about nothing. A man (Tati's comedic alter ego Monsieur Hulot) is trying desperately to make an appointment. Along the way he observes all that his beloved city has become. That is it; but that is all it needs to be.
The key to understanding and enjoying this film is by merely allowing yourself to watch without anticipation. Nothing that happens on the screen has any apparent significance but it is presented in order to reach you. The only way that this can happen is if you allow yourself to take it in and to contemplate its deeper meaning as is intended. What Tati was attempting to show us was the way in which we are affected so deeply by the changes in modern society. The film has even more significance today as we watch our present world changing before our very eyes. What is so stunning about Tati's final film is that it manages to provide insight to the viewer; a deeper understanding of things that he or she probably feels pretty sure of already.
As society becomes more and more fascinated with marketing itself they become less and less interested and simply living. Everything is done for the enjoyment of others; to make attract others and make them fascinated and comfortable; but in this action we give up who we are. We lose our honesty to a world of commercialism and thus become one in a million.
There is no individuality anymore.
Like I mentioned; this is not for everyone. Some may very well miss the point, and yet others who get the point may feel it is delivered in a less than conventional manor. That is true, for the films delivery is what may turn some off (like I stated, it seems to have no point). If you are interested in embracing a film for its artistic insight though, this is a film you will want to get your hands on. It's enlightening, intriguing and unforgettable.