Debbie | Highland Park, IL United States | 06/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jacques Tati's farewell to Monsieur Hulot is also a deep, insightful, sad and funny reflection on the modern age. The old Paris that Hulot loved in Holiday and moved in and out of in Mon Oncle -- the Paris we think of when we long to visit -- is completely gone here. (The closing scene in Mon Oncle, where Hulot drives past an anonymous airport, presages the modernity that has overwhelmed Paris in Playtime.) Hulot's Paris of the 1950s is all steel, glass, and consumerism. Human contact seems impossible at first. But as the day passes into night (and then into day again), individuality replaces structure, and Hulot's humanity ultimately conquers modern sterility. This wonderfully compassionate story is also remarkably funny, though these are smiling long-lasting laughs, not belly laughs.Ignore the negative comments about the picture quality of the VHS from the first two reviewers. The DVD is soooo much better than the VHS -- it is impossible to describe the improvement. As for the 2.35:1 vs. 1.85:1 issue, all I can say is that I loved the film as presented by Criterion. I have no idea if I would love it more in its full aspect. This is one of the great achievements in cinema -- don't miss it."
Amazing movie and an admirable transfer
R. Williams | Jackson Heights, NY | 07/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"OK, this is an amazing film. of course. every time i've seen it, either at home or in the theater, i have been completely captivated. It is by turns charming, hilarious, and jittering with energy. It builds into frenzies, distracting the viewer from the pleasant fact that there is little to tie the film together, no true main characters, and almost no dialogue.about the dvd transfer. first of all, the only 70mm print left in existence is owned by Jacques Tati's family, who does not release it to anyone. so what we have to work with are 35mm prints and 16mm prints. this is a nice transfer--plenty of color, no scratches, and so on. what's more, criterion collection should be commended for even releasing a DVD in the first place. for any lover of the film, it's a real treat to get to have it around to watch all the time. The VHS was appalling, unlistenable, and well, VHS (need i go into the faults of the medium??). I'm glad to have it; I enjoy being able to turn off the subtitles; and i think technical critique is really trifling and tiresome. If you can see this film in the theater, GO SEE IT IMMEDIATELY. otherwise, get the dvd. it's a brilliant film."
What are their criteria, exactly
S. Day | Watford, UK | 06/02/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"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."
An amazing film and a fantastic dvd.
Annie Niemoose | San Francisco, CA United States | 04/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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. On the most readily apparent level, the film is about modernization (it seems to be set in the near future, but this is not explicit). Concrete and glass have consumed the world, and the people in it are completely superficial. In contrast to this, there exists Mr. Hulot, an awkward character that is consistently baffled by everything around him. At times, however, Tati shows us that the modern sensibility is just a delicate facade (chaos ensues at the restaurant), and that underneath it there can exist a very human playfulness (the extended carousel metaphor at the end). On another level, the film is about cinema and television. There is a consistent theme of voyeurism. Much of the film is shot through glass windows--mostly interior scenes filmed from outside. At one point in the film, all the action occurs inside an apartment building where each living room has a wall-sized window. The entire scene is shot from outside, and the building looks very much like a television. At one point during this scene, one group of people sit down to watch TV, while another group of people in the apartment next to them are do the same. They react to what they see on the screen as if they were watching the events in the other apartment (both TV's are in the same wall, and they are facing each other). At one point a man in the second apartment begins to undress, and almost in response the father in the first apartment sends his daughter out of the room.Unfortunately, Criterion was unable to procure the 70mm print (actually the 65mm camera negative) of this film--apparently the only acceptable one in existence. The Tati estate will not allow anyone to use it until someone does a complete restoration (this makes sense: each time that the print is used, it becomes more damaged). Fortunately, Criterion has found good 35mm elements and put out a pristine transfer. The image quality is about as it could be under the circumstances. Without their efforts, this film would surely have been treated very poorly on DVD, if at all.Despite other reviewers' comments to the contrary, I believe that the original ratio of this film is 1.85. According to the IMDB this is true, and if you observe the composition of the frame, you will notice that everything fits neatly into it (yes, this includes the opening credits and the drooping plane model mentioned previously by reviewers). If you haven't found a way to eliminate the overscanning on your television, you may miss some of the details, or elements of the frame will fall off the edge of your screen. That's how densely Tati has packed this frame. It can be hard to discern certain details (such as a wedding ring) that would be easy to see in 70mm, but here the fault is not with the transfer, nor with the source print, but simply with the resolution of DVD in general. This film was meant to be seen in the theater (though you probably won't get a chance to anytime soon--so buy the dvd!). As for the sound quality, while the soundtrack is important, Tati intentionally muted the dialogue, and other elements are pretty clear, so it is more than adequate. This is the best that could be done with the materials, and I doubt that the sound quality was ever that great (even in 70mm). I believe that if you are not satisfied with this DVD, it is simply because the format itself is not good enough for such a large film. For a DVD, it could hardly be better.There is a defect on the disc: the interview with Terry Jones and the short film, Cours du Soir, were encoded as anamorphic, even though they are full frame. As a result, they are flattened vertically. On some players this is unfixable, but on others you can fiddle with the player to present it correctly (you have to do this while it is running). It is unfortunate, but this dvd is otherwise outstanding."
Wayne A. | Belfast, Northern Ireland | 04/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."