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A variety of tourists, including the unflappable Monsieur Hulot, descend upon a very modernized Paris and spend an eventful 24 hours there.
For more about Play Time and the Play Time Blu-ray release, see the Play Time Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 28, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jacques Tati, Rita Maiden, France Rumilly, France Delahalle, Laure Paillette, Reinhard Kolldehoff
Director: Jacques Tati
» See full cast & crew
Play Time Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 28, 2009
Jacques Tati's "Play Time" (1967) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The disc contains all of the supplemental features found on the DVD release of the film: Jacques Tati and Nicolas Rybowski's short film "Cours du soir"; BBC's "Jacques Tati in M. Hulot's Work"; selected scene commentary by film historian Phillip Kemp; video introduction by Terry Jones; the biographical film "Tati Story"; a discussion with Jacques Tati; and more. Region-A "locked".
Gallic director Jacques Tati's Play Time is an outrageously hilarious film. It is also seriously disturbing. Play Time follows the story of a mid-age man, Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati), who some may say looks a bit like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous character Sherlock Holmes. The most obvious difference between the two is the fact that Holmes is a man of logic while Hulot isn't.
Play Time opens up with Hulot's arrival at Orly Airport. Shortly after, we see him in a giant ultramodern office building in downtown Paris, where he attempts to arrange a meeting with an important businessman. This proves to be an incredibly challenging task as Hulot gets lost in the building. He also ends up causing some serious confusion amongst the people who work there. Eventually, he decides that enough is enough and leaves.
The outside world, however, proves just as challenging to Hulot. Together with a group of American tourists, he ends up in a chic night club where everything that could go wrong goes terribly wrong. In fact, things get so out of control that the club literally begins to fall apart. Of course, its guests love the show, and by the wee hours of the night most of them are having the time of their lives. Hulot does not. He attempts to help as many of the guests as possible.
It is a well known fact that Play Time bankrupted its creator. It took director Tati nine years to complete it, which proved to be his most expensive project. When Play Time was finally released, however, it collapsed with a bang at the box office. Director Tati ended up selling its rights in order to pay off at least some of the money he owned to his creditors.
Criterion's Blu-ray release of Play Time contains the film's 124-minute version. In the leaflet provided with it, renowned critic Jonathan Rosenbaum mentions a different version, a 152-minute one, which was apparently used for the film's premiere in France. Unfortunately, however, director Tati was asked to recut Play Time to its current 124-min version, before prints of it were sold to different French and international distributors. Mr. Rosenbaum also points out that a lot of the missing footage from the 152-minute version of Play Time has been lost.
Filmed in 70mm, Play Time is a grandiose spectacle. Detail, color and camera movement have to be seen to be believed. I know that this is a terribly overused cliche, but Play Time truly deserves it.
Play Time is structured as a giant collage of episodes where there is a lot more happening than one could possibly follow. On addition to Monsieur Hulot, there are a number of other characters in Play Time whose eccentric behavior is just as fascinating to behold – an American woman on a mission to take pictures of the "real" Paris, a very confused porter, a rich American man who wants to party hard, a miserable waiter, a helpless drunk, a very pretentious French woman, etc. Often these characters are involved in hilarious gigs which one could easily miss because there are two, three, occasionally even four of them happening at the same time.
I do not wish to discuss Play Time's message; this would be inappropriate. I believe that attempting to explain how to deconstruct Play Time would only spoil its magic. One must experience the confusion, amusement and awe Tati's vision of the future usually causes unprepared. Then, in order to grasp Play Time, one must see it again.
Play Time Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jacques Tati's Play Time arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
This high-definition digital transfer has been created on a Spirit Datacine from 35mm reduction internegative made from the restored 65mm interpositive. Plenty of debris, scratches, flecks and stains have been removed. Stability has been improved tremendously. Contrast, clarity and detail are notably stronger. When blown through a digital projector, Play Time looks exceptional. The color-scheme is fantastic. The prominent grays, metallic-silver, blues, greens, blacks and whites are rich and well saturated. Frankly, next to the Blu-ray transfer, the SDVD transfer of Play Time looks pale. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern; neither is macroblocking. There is no color-bleeding to report either. As expected, heavy DNR has not been applied. During the opening 3-4 minutes (where the film's title is), you will notice a few scratches and flecks, but throughout the film dirt, debris, stains, large scratches and flecks are not present. To sum it all up, this Blu-ray transfer is a very serious upgrade over the existing SDVD release. Well done, Criterion! (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, unless you have a native Region-A or Region-Free player, you will not be able to access the disc's content).
Play Time Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French (with portions of English) LPCM 2.0 and International Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. (Tati created two soundtracks for Play Time: one for France and one for international audiences. Though the latter incorporates more English, both contain multiple languages, as Tati believed that the dialogue was secondary and that his film could be understood visually by any viewer).
The film's soundtrack has been remastered at 24-bit from the original 4-channel stems. A number of pops, hissings, clicks, and hum have been manually removed with Pro Tools HD. Crackle has been attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation. Audio supervisor and restoration: Ryan Hullings.
Once again, I have absolutely no reservations whatsoever. The French LPCM 2.0 track is crisp and clear. There are no balance issues that I detected either. Francis Lemarque's score is very effective; the dynamics are more prominent. I have not watched the entire film with the international track, but did compare a few scenes with it. My impression is that it is adequate, but most definitely not a match for the French LPCM 2.0 track. Sharpness and depth are lacking. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Play Time Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Terry Jones introduction - this is the same short introduction by writer, director, and performer Terry Jones offered on the Criterion DVD. (7 min, 1080i).
Selected scene commentary - a commentary with film historian Phillip Kemp, which was recorded for the British Film Institute. The gentleman talks about the history of Play Time, its director, the film's complex narrative, etc. He also deconstructs a few of the film's more prominent scenes. (47 min. 1080i).
Au-dela de "Play Time" - a short film, with a script by Jacques Tati scholar Stephane Goudet, exploring Tati's hugely ambitious production. (7 min. 1080i)
Tati Story - a biographical film tracing Jacques Tati's life and work. The film features clips from his films, as well as rare photos and archival materials. In French with optional English subtitles. (21 min. 1080i).
"Jacques Tati in M. Hulot's Work" - in this 1987 BBC Omnimus program, Gavin Millar interviews Tati at the Hotel de la Plage, made famous in M. Hulot's Hioliday. Tati discusses his work as a comedian and filmmaker and the films featuring his beloved Hulot. In English. (50 min. 1080i).
Tati at the San Francisco Film Festival - the 1972 San Francisco International Film Festival hosted the U.S. premiere of Play Time. Jacques Tati attended the event and participated in a discussion about the film, moderated by Albert Johnson. This is a collection with audio excerpts from that discussion. (17 min).
Sylvette Baudrot - Sylvette Baudrot has been a script supervisor for more than five decades and worked with Jacques Tati on three of his films. In this featurette she recalls her participation in Play Time. In French, with optional English subtitles. (13 min. 1080i)
Cours du soir - in this 1967 short film, written by Jacques Tati and directed by Nicolas Rybowski, Tati plays the instructor of a class studying the art of mime. In French, with optional English subtitles. (28 min, 1080i).
Leaflet - for the Blu-ray release of Play Time, Criterion have reprinted and added the same leaflet they offered with the SDVD version of the film. The leaflet contains Jonathan Rosenbaum's essay "The Dance of Play Time".
Play Time Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Criterion's Blu-ray release of Jacques Tati's Play Time is a very serious upgrade over the existing SDVD release of the film. Furthermore, the distributors have also transferred all of the supplemental features from the SDVD to the Blu-ray release. Frankly, I cannot think of a single reason why you should not upgrade. Very Highly Recommended.
Play Time Blu-ray, News and Updates
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