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Playtime [1967] [DVD]
Playtime [1967] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jacques Tati
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £19.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cinema as an all-encompassing experience, 1 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Playtime [1967] [DVD] (DVD)
I have read some of the other reviews here of Jaques Tati's Playtime. Most of the reviews seem to be lukewarm at best (even the positive reviews being a bit guarded) with a few pointedly negative reviews. I want to start off by making it clear that I respect those opinions. I'm adding my viewpoint here to offer a different way of thinking about this unique masterpiece with the hope that it will help open-minded and adventurous film fans.

Briefly, the technical details of the DVD: The DVD contains the full-length (previously released versions in cinemas were often edited for length), 70 mm (essentially, the old school version of IMAX -- i.e., the highest resolution film stock available; previous releases were often in 35 mm because of technical limitations), 7-track stereo audio version (I say more about this below) of Playtime -- essentially the version as Tati intended. The DVD also contains a couple of brief documentaries on Jaques Tati's career and the making of Playtime. Those two documentaries alone (as brief as they are) makes it worthwhile for Tati fans to get this DVD.

Having got that out of the way, I want to note that I'm actually going to focus my review more on the film -- at least the version that is as close to Tati's intentions as possible -- itself rather than the DVD.

I first saw this film at a French film festival at Cambridge's Arts Picturehouse. Despite my enthusiasm for French movies, I have to admit that this is the first Tati film I had seen (since then, I've seen most of his other films).

The revival version I saw of Playtime was the full-length, 70 mm, 7-track audio version of the film -- as mentioned earlier, as close to Tati's vision of the film as possible. They showed the film on the largest screen available. The 7-track stereo audio had to be handled in a way that is rare in the post-silent film era; the audio track was not on the film reel itself but was on a separate disc that had to be synched up with the film.

As I sat in the front row, I had an unprecedented sense of being enveloped by a film ... cinema as an all-encompassing experience. Part of it, I'm sure, was the technical aspects. The richly restored colours and film stock shown in its full, high resolution 70 mm glory (on the big screen of a theatre no less). While Tati's films are more akin to silent films in the sense that the dialogue is there more for affect rather than as a plot driving device, nonetheless, the mutli-tracked audio also lends itself to an awe-inspiring experience by elevating the seemingly mundane and ordinary sounds of daily life to the level of an epic cinematic soundtrack.

But it's not just the artiface, it's the art -- in this case, the film -- itself. Taking place in an artificial Paris (affectionately nicknamed by the press as 'Tativille') that's more a mash-up of the Jetsons and Bauhaus (i.e., something like Canary Wharf) rather than the more familiar Hausmann, Tati does a witty take on a hyper-real version of day-to-day life in a modern metropolis. There are so many delightful details and touches to this film -- in any one scene, there can be a dozen fascinating things happening at various points on the screen -- the viewer gets the sense of being caught up in the world -- a world with as much hustle-and-bustle as our more familiar one -- Tati created.

Many people here and elsewhere make it a point to say that Jaques Tati seems to be doing social commentary through his films, especially Playtime. I can't quite agree with that viewpoint. If Tati is doing any social commentary at all, it seems as though he does much less of it than what Charlie Chaplin -- clearly an influence on Tati -- did in his films.

Instead of thinking of Tati's films (including this one) as some sort of stentorian social commentary, I think it's better to think of it as observational humour. Whatever 'critique' Tati may have to offer about modern living seems to be done with a lot of finesse and joie de vivre rather than in some sort of scolding tone.

I also think, contrary to what some others have said, that there are plenty of physical and visual gags here to keep both casual and devoted fans of Tati smiling (my favourite is the glass door bit at the restaurant). But I should note that it's not really slapstick commedy (but that's also true with most of his other films); again, it's more observational humour rather than sheer bawdiness our knee-slapping hillarity.

As I mentioned earlier, Playtime is the first Tati film I ever saw. Since then, I've seen many of the others. The other films are, needless to say, great. However, I will always believe that Playtime -- seen as Tati had intended and not in the limited ways it's been presented -- is his masterpiece and his best film. There are so many joyous details in every single frame of this film that I believe that I could see Tati's Playtime a thousand times and still discover a touch, a stroke, a detail by the master. I can't say that for many other films (including Tati's other great films). Playtime is not just a film, it's an experience.

I suspect that some of the people who saw this film in the past (in theatres) and are giving it negative reviews saw a bastardized version of it (35 mm, edited for length, etc.). Even though they may have seen it again on DVD -- and even though, as I've said, the DVD has the fully restored version -- they may have unfortunately been deprived of the real thing ... the true masterpiece as Tati intended. Any truncated version -- including the DVD (even if one were to see it on the largest plasma television possible with an excellent audio kit) -- can never capture the magic I felt as I sat there in the front row enveloped by the rich details of the 70 mm print, on a larger than life screen, with the 7-tracked audio, in a cinema.

Tati's Playtime is in that sense like Carol Reed's The Third Man [DVD] [1949]. No matter how much I enjoy seeing The Third Man on DVD, I always have the nagging feeling that the ideal place to see it is huddled in a dusky theatre, sheltered against the cool twilight of a Viennese night.

Similarly, to be fully appreciated, Jaques Tati's Playtime has to be seen in a theatre, on a large screen, in 70 mm, with the life-as-a-soundtrack mutli-layered audio, prepared to enter Tati's world -- a funny, witty, and colour-filled version that mimics our often dreary one.

It is one of my fondest wishes that, before I pass away, I get to have that unique experience -- seeing Playtime as Tati intended -- again. It is my hope for all of us on this New Year's Day.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 8, 2014 9:11 AM BST


The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History
The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History
by Gregory Zuckerman
Edition: Hardcover

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Paulson Trade, 23 Nov. 2009
This well written book recounts how John Paulson and other like-minded contrarian traders & investors were able to pull off their version of the (in-)famous 'Soros Trade' -- except, instead of breaking the British Pound, Paulson et al. made their bones betting against a crumbling financial system using CDSs (credit default swaps) [basically, a derivative instrument that either allows you to insure against credit risk or make a pure bet against the credit-worthiness of companies, mortgages, cash flows, etc.]. In 2007, Paulson's hedge fund made $15 Billion (John Paulson's take home pay was $4 Billion -- the largest one year payout to an individual in financial history). Paulson made Soros' legendary trade look pedestrian! In fact, as the book recounts, George Soros actually invited John Paulson to give him a tutorial on trading with CDSs!

In years to come, I can safely predict that financial traders wanting to make a big score with a particularly grand bet will refer to it as a Paulson Trade rather than a Soros Trade. What John Paulson and others did was not easy to execute -- although, as the book makes clear, the concept is fairly straightforward (the credit market bubble was being inflated with toxic sludge) -- and I appreciate the fact that the book makes many of the missteps, hurdles, and shady practices of brokers/banks clear.

I'm glad I got this book asap (getting the US version ahead of the UK edition). It was well worth the extra effort. An enjoyable, entertaining, and potentially profitable read. At the very least, the reader can come away with a better understanding of how our easy credit economy fell apart to near depressionary levels.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2010 1:18 PM BST


Grace: Live Around the World (2 DVD/1 CD Deluxe)
Grace: Live Around the World (2 DVD/1 CD Deluxe)
Price: £17.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He "wanted to dash [him-]self against the rocks" -- Amazing Grace documentary alone justifies the purchase, 30 Oct. 2009
"I'm motivated by sadness, anger, depression ... and love ..." -- Jeff Buckley, from *Amazing Grace* documentary.

Words alone couldn't describe how wonderful this 2 DVD + 1 CD package memorializing Jeff Buckley is. One of the DVDs is the award winning documentary on Jeff titled *Amazing Grace.* That alone would be worth the purchase price (since it's hard to get a DVD of the documentary otherwise). Besides interviews of friends and those whom he influenced (it's amazing to see and hear from the wide range of artists of all types he influenced), you get rare footage of live performances and his daily life. There were definitely parts of that DVD where I really felt like I got to know Jeff as well as anyone could. The part of the documentary where he says, "I wanted to dash myself against the rocks," is eery if you realize what happened to him.

Even if that was all you would get, you shouldn't hesitate to purchase this while you still can. But there is a lot more. The first DVD is at least as good as the documentary. The main DVD contains live performances of what would comprise the only full LP that Jeff finished while he was alive, *Grace.* Besides the power and soulfulness of these live performances, interspersed throughout are interviews. As a bonus, there are a couple of extended interviews, extra live performances, and the music video of his most played song -- his cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Although I prefer his performances of "Last Goodbye" (2 of them on the 1st DVD) and "Lover, You Should Have Come Over," one can't deny the appeal and powerful vulnerability of Jeff's definitive version of "Hallelujah."

The CD contains the audio portions of the live performances on the DVD.

I wanted to address the complaint that this is somehow exploitive. To slate Jeff's estate for putting this out seems ridiculous. Not only is this well done, it's illogical and unreasonable to complain about this. After all, it's no more exploitive than the Beatles' 'stakeholders' to put out material even though John Lennon and George Harrison are dead. In fact, you can extend that to any dead artist whose material is brought out posthumously.

It would be a terrible shame if fans missed out on this rare opportunity to get great insights into a phenomenal musician because one (even though there are two negative reviews, I suspect it's actually the same person) eccentric decides to ruin it for everyone else.

To sum up, this is really well done and either one of the 2 DVDs alone are worth the purchase price. Don't hesitate to buy this if you're interested in Jeff Buckley.

As for the dissenter ... there was an interview on the first DVD (the live performances) where Jeff talked about how society de-values artists -- those who are sensitive, vulnerable, and have the willingness and creativity to express that. Jeff went so far as to say of musicians like himself that "society kills artists." Perhaps that's what ultimately did him in. Don't let one sour person de-value a lasting memorial to Jeff's artistry. This deserves far more than 5 stars.


Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
by Christos H. Papadimitriou
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to Bertrand Russell and meta-mathematics, 5 Oct. 2009
I just finished reading Logicomix. At first, I was rather skeptical about whether a comic book would do justice to covering the life of Bertrand Russell and his contemporaries (including Alfred North Whitehead, Georg Cantor, Gottlob Frege, David Hilbert, Kurt Godel, Ludwig Wittgenstein, et al.) as they sought to discover more rigorous foundations for mathematics via logic -- their epic search for truth. I'm happy to report that this comic book does an excellent job of doing that and more. The two main co-authors of this book are from maths related backgrounds and they have largely succeeded in their goal of making accessible Bertrand Russell's (and others' -- particularly Wittgenstein's) life-long goal of discovering they key to attaining unshakeable knowledge of 'truths' fundamental to the workings of the universe. That they failed (thanks to Kurt Godel and Alan Turing and, to some extent, Russell and Wittgenstein themselves) in their quest -- which the book points out -- is nothing to be ashamed of since -- as the Greek authors of the book may point out (drawing upon Aristotle) -- the journey toward knowledge is rewarding in it of itself. It's also worth noting that the 'failure' of their original goals actually gave birth to the creation of an important and wholly new field of endeavor: computer science.

Please don't let my egg-headed, solemn-toned praise of this book put you off if you feel intimidated by logic, philosophy, or maths. This is one of those rare books that will give anyone -- regardless of the background knowledge one may or may not bring to it -- the sense of having been intellectually enriched and smarter after reading it.

After reading the entire book in one sitting on a Sunday evening, I can say that one of the few things I can be certain of is that everyone who takes the time to read/look over this carefully crafted -- including graphically, in the choice of words, and the thoughts and planning put into it -- will enjoy it as much as I did.


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