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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 Playtime and the Playtime Blu-ray release, see Playtime Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 14, 2010 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
Playtime Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 14, 2010
Jacques Tati's "Play Time" (1967) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of the British Film Institute. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with film historian Phillip Kemp; interview with Jacques Tati; conversation with script supervisor Sylvette Baudrot; short biographical film; short film directed by film scholar Stephane Goudet; and the film's original theatrical trailer. The release also arrives with a 24-page illustrated booklet. In French and English, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "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; the film 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.
BFI's Blu-ray release of Play Time contains the film's 124-minute version. In the leaflet provided with Criterion's Blu-ray release of Play Time 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.
Playtime 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 the BFI.
The Following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Playtime was originally photographed in 70mm. The master used for this release was transferred and restored in High Definition from the 35mm reduction internegative which was made from the restored 65mm interpositive."
Considering the source BFI had to work with, which appears to be the same one Criterion used for their Blu-ray release of Play Time, I am pleased with the presentation. Fine object detail is very good and contrast levels consistent throughout the entire film. Compared to the old SDVD release of Play Time, clarity and color-reproduction are also dramatically improved. Traces of mild edge-enhancement are often easy to spot, but they are never overly distracting; macroblocking is not an issue of concern. There are no serious stability issues either. Lastly, when blown through a digital projector the high-definition transfer conveys pleasing depth and tightness. All in all, despite a few inherited limitations Play Time looks very good on Blu-ray, and I have absolutely no problem recommending that you consider adding it to your libraries. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Playtime Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 2.0 (with portions of English) and International LPCM 2.0, which appears in our database as English LPCM 2.0. For the record, the BFI have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The French LPCM 2.0 track is solid. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. There are no balance issues with Francis Lemarque's score either. Understandably, the range of dynamics is quite limited, but the sound has wonderful organic qualities.
On the Criterion Blu-ray release of Play Time the alternative International track is encoded as Dolby Digital 2.0. On this release, the International track is encoded as LPCM 2.0. I tested a couple of different scenes with it, and to be honest, the only marginal improvement I noticed was during the club disaster in the final third of the film. The dialog is practically identical - crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts to report in this review.
Playtime Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Playtime Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The BFI Blu-ray release of Jacques Tati's Play Time is a good alternative for those who could not take advantage of Criterion's Blu-ray release - the high-definition transfer is practically identical to the one used by Criterion. The BFI Blu-ray release also contains Phillip Kemp's wonderful audio commentary, only portions of which appear on the Criterion Blu-ray release. Keep in mind that this is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Playtime: Other Editions
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Playtime Blu-ray, News and Updates
• BFI Announces Two Jacques Tati Films on Blu-ray - October 29, 2010
BFI Video has announced that on November 29 it will release two movies starring and directed by Jacques Tati: Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot and Playtime. Both will come out in dual-format, two-disc BD/DVD packs. The films have been lovingly remastered in high ...
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