110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Zot!
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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#151 Post by Zot! » Tue Dec 09, 2014 1:56 am

Mr Sausage wrote:I found Playtime exhausting the first time I watched it. After about an hour I couldn't wait for it to be over just so that my eyes could get some relief. It seems like a film I'd like better in short bursts. At full length, it's all a bit much. I'll revisit it and see if my opinion has changed, but I'm not looking forward to it. Much more excited for Mon Oncle, which I haven't seen since highschool. Also it always reminds of me of the title of that Wallace Stevens poem, Le Monocle de Mon Oncle.
I agree and stand in the mon oncle camp as well. I think what playtime gains in epic scope, it loses in humanity. It's more a curiosity for me than a joy.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#152 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Dec 09, 2014 12:01 pm

I think PlayTime is still a very humanist work, but one that portrayed a larger but subtle nightmare of the modern world, so in that sense, I think I may know what you mean. But it's also a very utopian work - just to use it as a yard stick, for much of 2001 humanity feels like it's been overwhelmed by technology. (Much of the climax, to me, revolves around Bowman not only defeating it in the literal sense but regaining his humanity, through grief for his friend, intellectual innovation and empathy for a machine that tried to kill him.) To me, PlayTime has the persistent threat of that, but humanity manages to transcend all that, and I feel like you see that in the universal camaraderie in this multilingual world. (If memory serves, it's still a very Ango or Western-European world, but the point's driven home by the unsubtitled soundtrack of different languages.)

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warren oates
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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#153 Post by warren oates » Tue Dec 09, 2014 1:37 pm

Just kind of curious if Zot, Sausage and the other Playtime skeptics have seen the film (either initially or only) on home video? Playtime has always been at the top of my list of films whose full impact depends on the scale of the viewing experience. Like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001, Playtime demands to be experienced in the highest possible resolution on the largest available screen. I've seen it twice in 35mm, once in 70mm and think it gets better every time. But I also don't think I've ever felt like sitting down and watching the entire film on video, like I have with Tati's other features. Though the stunning new Blu-ray might change my mind about that.
Last edited by warren oates on Tue Dec 09, 2014 2:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#154 Post by jsteffe » Tue Dec 09, 2014 1:40 pm

I stand firmly in the PlayTime camp. I love the film's openness and ultimate ambiguity. From one perspective it offers a critique of anonymous modern urban spaces, but from another perspective these same urban spaces become sites of play and exploration in their own right. The film is crammed with wonderful gags and holds up under multiple viewings, and frankly I love the production design. I've never been crazy about Tati's presence as a performer, but this time he integrates himself well into the overall texture of the film.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#155 Post by aox » Tue Dec 09, 2014 1:45 pm

jsteffe wrote:I stand firmly in the PlayTime camp. I love the film's openness and ultimate ambiguity. From one perspective it offers a critique of anonymous modern urban spaces, but from another perspective these same urban spaces become sites of play and exploration in their own right. The film is crammed with wonderful gags and holds up under multiple viewings, and frankly I love the production design. I've never been crazy about Tati's presence as a performer, but this time he integrates himself well into the overall texture of the film.
Absolutely agreed. There are times when I completely ignore or forget that Tati is even in the frame.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#156 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 09, 2014 1:58 pm

I'm firmly in the glad-we-have-both camp. ;-}

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#157 Post by Shrew » Tue Dec 09, 2014 2:03 pm

I'm not a huge Playtime fan either, though I am looking forward to eventually revisiting it on this release. Specifically, the first half tends to really drag on me and the film doesn't get consistently fun until the orchestrated chaos of the nightclub. That may be the intent of course--to show a divide between hermetically-sealed, technology-driven modernity and the joyful chaos of humanity--but does make the first half a bit of a chore (for me at least). And I do wonder if a big theatrical screen would make the first part more exciting.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#158 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Dec 09, 2014 2:10 pm

warren oates wrote:Just kind of curious if Zot, Sausage and the other Playtime skeptics have seen the film (either initially or only) on home video? Playtime has always been at the top of my list of films whose full impact depends on the scale of the viewing experience. Like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001, Playtime demands to be experienced in the highest possible resolution on the largest available screen. I've seen it twice in 35mm, once in 70mm and think it gets better every time. But I also don't think I've ever felt like sitting down and watching the entire film on video, like I have with Tati's other features. Though the stunning new Blu-ray might chance my mind about that.
I've only ever seen it the once, on DVD. It may work better on 70mm, or even on blu-ray when I re-watch it this Christmas. Who knows. My problem is not that I don't like what's in it, just that there's too much of it and it exhausted me. I don't know how much a bigger screen or a higher resolution disc will help with that, but it just may.

But then maybe my problem is that I kept trying to take in everything rather than picking this or that place in the frame to scrutinize.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#159 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 09, 2014 2:27 pm

I think it is better NOT to try to take everything in. Just watch one strand. Then re-watch it, and try to watch a different one. Repeat as often as necessary.

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warren oates
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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#160 Post by warren oates » Tue Dec 09, 2014 2:28 pm

For me, the difference in the scale of the picture -- say, from a larger TV or decent home projection screen vs. even the smaller rep screens I've experienced -- makes Playtime's frame feel less crammed with happenings and more organically composed and choreographed. It's actually easier on the eyes and the attention to choose a place to focus on, to let your gaze wander, to follow a character or to reset to some other area. There's a rhythm to the action on the big screen that's different too. Everything unfolds with the same timing, of course, but within the expanded space of the larger frame it feels different. In any case, a theatrical screening of Playtime is one of the absolute musts in a cinephile's life. Every time it's playing around here I bug everyone I know to come see it with me. You shouldn't pass up a chance to see a projected 70mm print or high resolution digital restoration.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#161 Post by aox » Tue Dec 09, 2014 2:33 pm

warren oates wrote:For me, the difference in the scale of the picture -- say, from a larger TV or decent home projection screen vs. even the smaller rep screens I've experienced -- makes Playtime's frame feel less crammed with happenings and more organically composed and choreographed. It's actually easier on the eyes and the attention to choose a place to focus on, to let your gaze wander, to follow a character or to reset to some other area. There's a rhythm to the action on the big screen that's different too. Everything unfolds with the same timing, of course, but within the expanded space of the larger frame it feels different. In any case, a theatrical screening of Playtime is one of the absolute musts in a cinephile's life. Every time it's playing around here I bug everyone I know to come see it with me. You shouldn't pass up a chance to see a projected 70mm print or high resolution digital restoration.
I hate to contribute a simple +1 post, but WO is spot-on in his assessment for all of the correct reasons. Playtime is certainly on the shortlist of must-see cinematic experiences in a theater for any cinephile. Certainly any film benefits from the big screen, and we all have our favorites that we feel demand it; however, this is a candidate that physically needs the space to breathe, IMO. I check every few months to make sure there isn't come Tati retrospective or Playtime screening in NYC. It shouldn't be missed.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#162 Post by zedz » Tue Dec 09, 2014 3:40 pm

warren oates wrote:For me, the difference in the scale of the picture -- say, from a larger TV or decent home projection screen vs. even the smaller rep screens I've experienced -- makes Playtime's frame feel less crammed with happenings and more organically composed and choreographed. It's actually easier on the eyes and the attention to choose a place to focus on, to let your gaze wander, to follow a character or to reset to some other area. There's a rhythm to the action on the big screen that's different too. Everything unfolds with the same timing, of course, but within the expanded space of the larger frame it feels different. In any case, a theatrical screening of Playtime is one of the absolute musts in a cinephile's life. Every time it's playing around here I bug everyone I know to come see it with me. You shouldn't pass up a chance to see a projected 70mm print or high resolution digital restoration.
Also crucial to this is that Playtime was designed as a communal experience. Tati knows that there's too much happening in the frame for any one person to take in, but when you watch it in a cinema, each person is having their own individual encounter with the film and seeing different gags at different times. The communal experience of the film is thus much closer to an 'ideal' viewing. There aren't conventional 'laugh points', but rather a dynamic process of rippling laughter as one person spots a gag, laughs, and then other people, one by one, locate what they're laughing at and join in, or find other gags happening in other sectors of the frame and set off chain reactions of their own. It's a film that will never be truly alive in a home cinema, but it can still be appreciated if you understand how it works. Even a couple of other people in the room would help.

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warren oates
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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#163 Post by warren oates » Tue Dec 09, 2014 3:48 pm

So perfectly put and so true. Most film comedies are designed so that everyone in the audience laughs at the same moments. This one is as deliberately diffuse and democratic with its comic timing as it is with its visual design.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#164 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Dec 09, 2014 4:02 pm

I don't know if I would agree about Playtime becoming exhausting, as I've always found the near silent middle section of watching the two living rooms from the outside provides a great cooling down period in between the far more hectic office and nightclub set pieces, which surely was intentional.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#165 Post by whaleallright » Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:05 pm

Specifically, the first half tends to really drag on me and the film doesn't get consistently fun until the orchestrated chaos of the nightclub
I think there is an explanation for the relatively slow pace and sparse mise-en-scène of the first sections of the film. (Btw I'm pretty sure the following observation isn't original; it may be from Kristin Thompson's essay on PlayTime in her book Breaking the Glass Armor, which I read years ago.) In the early scenes Tati is teaching us how to watch his film. All of the visual and comic principles that climax in the restaurant scene are introduced in a much sparser way. Tati realized that his film was unlike—and required different viewing strategies than—most films, so he gives the audience some time (and space) to figure this out. This seems true to how I tend to experience the film, especially those times I've seen it in a theater.

Thompson and Jonathan Rosenbaum have advanced the idea that the subject of each of PlayTime's shots is "anything on the screen" and emphasize how each viewer can effectively choose which gags or motifs to attend to. I agree that the film's points of interest are probably more various and more diffused than in any other mainstream (that is, not avant-garde) film I can think of. But Tati does use some basic principles of visual composition to direct the audience's attention. He makes key objects brightly colored (and these stand out against the dominate slate-blue color of the surroundings). He has characters turn to look at something, and we follow their gazes. He places things in the center of the screen, or surrounded by a void. He will arrange a shot so that diagonal lines converge on a point of interest. Tati uses these time-tested strategies more often, and more often in combination, in the early scenes. Eventually, the film becomes denser and more difficult: gags will compete for our attention, and we'll have to work harder to follow the development of motifs. (Of course, one of the things Tati's films do is revise our sense of what a "gag" is in the first place.)

IMO PlayTime never quite develops into the truly "democratic" visual experience that Thompson and Rosenbaum have described. It's more of an aspiration. But I think it's extraordinary enough for what it does achieve.

(Edit: fixed some typos/grammar.)
Last edited by whaleallright on Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#166 Post by bugsy_pal » Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:57 am

Some very interesting perspectives on this film - which I would acknowledge is not to everyone's taste. I had the great pleasure of seeing it for the first time on a large cinema screen a few years ago (not sure whether it was 70mm but it was a 'restored' print) and the beauty of the compositions on screen was amazing. There weren't many people in the audience, but to me it felt like the cinema atmosphere added to the appreciation of the film. The glass door gag floored me first time around. It was definitely an experience to match seeing 2001 on the big screen.

I have been trying to get my kids to watch the film on bluray for ages, but they won't have it. Perhaps by the time it comes back to a local cinema, they'll be of an age to appreciate it more.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#167 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:33 pm

I first saw this in the cinema as well, and I remember being struck by the way it made the audience almost more laid-back than usual; everyone seemed to be casually scanning the screen and having a good time with what they found.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#168 Post by jorencain » Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:33 am

I bought this set with the hopes that I would enjoy Tati's films the third time around. I've seen "Mon Oncle" and "Playtime" twice over the past ten years or so. After not enjoying them, I assumed that I was too young or missing something.

Fast forward to this week; I've made it up to "Playtime" and I'm ready to give up. I think "Monsiour Hulot's Holiday" has been the high point, and the following two films are not working any better for me this time. Not even a chuckle during the entirety of "Mon Oncle" or "Playtime." I understand the skill and precision that went into these films, but I just sit disengaged on my couch, hoping to be reeled in by SOMETHING in the films. If they aren't funny to you, then there isn't much to hang your hat on. No emotional bonds to anyone in the films, no deep messages beyond "technology is cold and inhuman" (which is the same criticism I have of his movies).

Should I even bother watching the last two films in this set, or just try to sell it? I'm under the impression that "Trafic" is even "colder" than "Playtime." If so, I probably don't need to see it. I hope I'm wrong though!

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#169 Post by swo17 » Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:48 am

You would likely not care much for Trafic but might give Parade a try, as it's a whole other kettle of fish. The early shorts are also worth watching (maybe other than the first one).

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#170 Post by jorencain » Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:50 am

Thanks. Since I have the set, I should probably go ahead and watch both remaining films. It's only a few hours of my time. Yes, the first short was pretty rough, but I enjoyed some of the others.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#171 Post by Drucker » Tue Dec 30, 2014 8:37 pm

I am now through Playtime and adore Tati more than ever. I'd seen Holiday and Playtime before, but I actually find so much to love about Tati. Maybe the films don't make me laugh out loud like a Lubitsch or Keaton film does, but Tati's love of his subjects and ideals shines through.

The first two films are filled with more laugh-out-loud moments and owe more to slapstick and bits than the others. That said, Tati's ability to so completely build a world to run up against and be confounded by (Keaton-esque) in Playtime has its roots in Mon Oncle and while these two films may not elicit as many chuckles as the earlier ones, they are absolutely delightful and fun. It's as if they are hang out movies, and we are hanging out in Tati's head. Throughout them both, and especially apparent in Playtime, is the key idea that technology alienates. But it seems to only alienate because we let it. Modern day conveniences are, in reality, inconvenient. Whether an egg-storage unit or an intercom system. Whether an automatic garage door opener. Or perhaps the most perfect gag, having two men, 20 feet apart, communicate on telephone. One requests something. The answer is literally outside of his cubicle in a file, but the other man is sent to retrieve him and call him back. It is delightful. It is brilliant. And it is all too real.

I think the most profound thing about these latter two films is how ahead of their time they are. Every day, I ride the train from NYC home to NJ. People no longer wish to carry around a train ticket, so they pull the ticket up as an app on their phone. But the train begins under the tunnel on the way home, and so the conductor is constantly being delayed by people's phones without internet reception. This supposedly ingenious idea to have your train ticket a simple click away with the NJ Transit app becomes impossible to access and truly frustrating. Because somehow having your phone on you is more convenient than a ticket that fits in your wallet. That is Tati to me.

The beauty of Tati is that their is an optimism to all of the world's silliness. The village and the beach portrayed in his first two films show an old, and fading side of life. But the connections these people have make their way to Mon Oncle and Playtime. In the former, you have Tati's beautiful little village and neighborhood. Stray dogs and loose children aren't too dissimilar from the socialites at the party in Playtime, are they? While the first hour of Playtime is somewhat dark, as the city comes alive, and the music plays, we find that people can really be united and not worry about modern conveniences. The more the modern restaurant crumbles and falls apart, the closer and more lively the people get.

In Keaton and Chaplin, we have heroes thrust against the bigness of the world. They are constantly lost and bewildered in it. As Tati's filmmaking evolved, it's amazing how he becomes so absorbed into his own world. Surely it's no accident that children or American tourists, people outside of the way he's "supposed" to be, are the ones closest with him. I haven't figured out if I like Mon Oncle or Playtime better. While I loved the former the other day, having just finished the latter, it's so clear that it's a perfect piece where Tati has fully immersed himself in his own world. He is simultaneously the center of it and outside of it. Hulot is called to and loved by friends. These are friends who are a part of the "new", "cold" Paris. Nonetheless, they are delighted to see him, and the world is warmer when they are together.

(I look forward to and don't know how the rest of the set will hold up to my thoughts. I'm sure Trafic will be dark, Parade will be dark, and not sure what to expect (except a bit more slapstick) out of the shorts. )

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#172 Post by tenia » Wed Dec 31, 2014 5:21 am

I had quite a hard time with the first half of Playtime. I think the gags were just too "hidden" for me to find them (and thus laugh with them), and it took me this half of the movie to get used to just screen the frame looking for all these details here and there.

Once Hulot started to walk in this weird "Technology convention" is when I started to really enjoy the movie and find it very entertaining.

I also hugely enjoyed the restaurant crumbling apart and the alcohol bringing people together around a former singer and a young piano player. It's something about lost small pleasures, I guess. Very melancholic movie.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#173 Post by Zot! » Sun Jan 11, 2015 7:01 pm

I'm not sure why people think this is such a great effort from Criterion. It's a repackage of an already curated set, with some minor supplements ported from previous releases (is anything actually new to this set?) The digipacks are flawed, and the bonus features all verge on unwatchable at a feature length. The bonus features are more than just curiosities, and in the case of hulot's holiday is the original unadulterated theatrical release. I was feeling so superior for skipping the BFI releases, but now I'm eating crow.

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#174 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jan 11, 2015 7:06 pm

Zot! wrote:[...]the bonus features all verge on unwatchable at a feature length. .
Could you please explain what you mean by this?

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Re: 110-112, 439, 729-731 The Complete Jacques Tati

#175 Post by Zot! » Sun Jan 11, 2015 7:27 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Zot! wrote:[...]the bonus features all verge on unwatchable at a feature length. .
Could you please explain what you mean by this?
Sorry, bonus feature length films are hard to watch when they look lousy, especially when you know they exist in a better form.

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