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Playtime (The Criterion Collection)

4.3 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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(Sep 05, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jacques Tati's gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in the age of technology reached their creative apex with Playtime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the endearingly clumsy, resolutely old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a bafflingly modernist Paris. With every inch of its superwide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, Playtime is a lasting testament to a modern age tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion. Part of the Criterion Collection.

There's never been, and never will be, another comedy like Playtime. Three years in the making, French comedy master Jacques Tati's 1967 classic was an epic, experimental undertaking of unprecedented scale: Requiring the lavish construction of three entire city blocks of ultra-modern buildings, it was the most expensive French film up to that time, financially ruined its creator, baffled many viewers and critics when it was finally released after numerous delays, and is now regarded as Tati's undisputed masterpiece. Once again, Tati plays his comedic alter ego, the hapless M. Hulot (first seen in 1953's Mr. Hulot's Holiday), seen here as a befuddled pawn on a gigantic chessboard (metaphorically speaking) of modern conformity. He's simply trying to get to an appointment, but in the film's astonishing mock-Parisian landscape of antiseptic steel, glass, and plastic, Tati's resonant theme of contemporary confusion is fully expressed through meticulous use of framing and space--so effectively, in fact, that critic Jonathan Rosenbaum (in an accompanying essay) suggests that the film's dazzling "Royal Garden" sequence "may be the most formidable example of mise-en-scène in the history of cinema." With M. Hulot taking a back-seat to the film's breathtaking accumulation of visual details, Playtime (or, if you prefer, Play Time) rewards multiple viewings, revealing something new every time in its widescreen canvas of subtle gags and delirious eccentricity. Although journalist Art Buchwald provided English dialogue for the film, Playtime bears closer kinship to silent comedy, with universal humor and a musical soundtrack that's as essential as any of the visuals. Tati (1908-1982) never recovered from the film's financial failure, but happily, he lived long enough to see Playtime receive its much-deserved critical re-appraisal. --Jeff Shannon

Stills from Playtime (Click for larger image)

Special Features

  • Video introduction by Terry Jones
  • Selected scene audio commentary by film historian Philip Kemp
  • Alternate international soundtrack
  • "Au-delà de Playtime," a short documentary featuring archival behind-the-scenes footage from the set
  • "Tati Story," a short biographical film about Tati
  • "Jacques Tati in Monsieur Hulot’s Work," a 1976 BBC Omnibus program
  • Rare audio interview with Tati from the U.S. debut of Playtime
  • Video interview with script supervisor Sylvette Baudrot
  • Cours du soir, a 1967 short film written by and starring Tati
  • Booklet with a new essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Product Details

  • Actors: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Rita Maiden, France Rumilly, France Delahalle
  • Directors: Jacques Tati
  • Writers: Jacques Tati, Art Buchwald, Jacques Lagrange
  • Producers: Bernard Maurice
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: September 5, 2006
  • Run Time: 124 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000G8NXZ0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,102 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Playtime (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. O. DeRiemer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 1, 2006
Format: DVD
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.
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Format: Blu-ray
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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