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Criterion Coll: Playtime (Version française) [Import]
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
The only reason I can't give this DVD 5 stars has to do with it being in the wrong widescreen format, as a previous reviewer stated. This is by no means nitpicking, as one of the delights of "Playtime" is seeing how Tati uses the frame so inventively. Gags can pop up anywhere in a shot, so active viewing is required. Unfortunately, in the format Criterion uses here, some jokes that occur at the edges of the picture can be lost. For example, in the bar of the restaurant, there's a model airplane that starts to droop when it gets too hot, but here only the nose of the plane can be seen.
The only argument in Criterion's favor is that this is a subtle movie full of small but significant details, and some of those could be harder to pick up if the film was presented in its true format. For example, near the end of the film, Barbara (the American tourist who's captured M. Hulot's interest) puts her hand on his shoulder while she adjusts her shoe. Hulot looks at the hand and sees she's wearing a wedding ring. Tati knew this could be noticed when projected in the 70mm format. However, on my TV at least, this is nearly impossible to see, even in this version. Ultimately, though, the true format should have been respected.
The short "Cours du soir" included here is a nice bonus, as it had been fairly hard to find.Read more ›
While predominately thought of as a comedy, Tati in Playtime attempts to answer larger questions than a fumbling Hulot is able to muddle through alone. Through each character we see into and around the impersonal technology that revolutionized our lives and environment. Playtime doesn't ask why this happened, but it does ask how can we live in this cold cacophony where our ideals become only reflections in a door.
One supposes that the answers have something to do with the young photographer trying desperately to take the picture of a flower vendor absurdly juxtaposed outside a stark gray office tower while remarking, "this is Paris". Or maybe it exists within the dilemma of choosing a prepared meal under a bright neon sign which makes all the food ghostly green. On the surface we see the humour and below we feel the exquisite simplicity of Tati's whimsically rigorous proof of life.
Playtime is a gift of sight and sound that should not be missed. It is medicine of the most wonderful taste and a vicarious curative for any person in these modern times.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
I haven't seen this movie for several years. I gave it four stars because I remember that I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first two M. Hulot movies.
If you go to [... Read more
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
It is the 3rd film in a series of four. Read more
What a horrendous experiment in comedy...if you like Jerry Lewis, I guess you'll love this travesty of a film. If you are a film snob, you will love it. Read morePublished on June 7 2004
I have not had the opportunity to see this film and ,sadly, it is now OOP (Out Of Print) from Criterion and the gougers of OOP's are licking their chops... Read morePublished on May 7 2004
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... Read morePublished on April 13 2004 by Wayne A.
J'ai vu ce film de Tati pendant la periode des Fetes 2003
a la tele de Radio-Canada. Pour moi,Jacques Tati est un grand
maitre du cinema.Il a un style bien particulier. Read more
one of the first and finest of its genre, in which the decorum becomes a supporting character infusing life in this humorous and visual treat.Published on June 24 2003 by takezo
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... Read morePublished on April 21 2002 by Jay Dickson
Nothing is what it really seems, it's much more absurd! And also humorous! This is a lovely film to watch and see and hear. Read morePublished on Oct. 9 2001 by hovercraft
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