Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Jacques Tati's Playtime at the Castro Tonight

Playtime is one of my favorite films of all-time. It is really its own form of cinema, not a typical movie. It's at the Castro tonight and I'm catching the 6pm show! You really should come out tonight or tomorrow to catch this incredible film.

from an article on Jacques Tati
In most cases - in fact, all but one - the real joy of seeing Tati's films is still unknown to me. This is because, out of the six features and three short films he made between 1932 and 1974, I've only seen one of them in what could even loosely be called its proper format: Parade, which was originally broadcast for Swedish television. It is presently available on video in three forms: the Criterion Collection laserdisc, a number of videotape editions, and a DVD from the French company DVDY, of adequate quality. For the remaining eight - Trafic, Playtime, Mon Oncle (1958), Les Vacances de M. Hulot (known alternately as M. Hulot's Holiday), Jour de fête (1948), L'École des facteurs (1947), Gai Dimanche (1935), and Oscar, champion de tennis (1932) (which is believed to be lost) - I confess with great remorse that my acquaintance has only been through DVD, laserdisc, and videotape. The issue of format matters most in the case of Playtime, the only movie Tati shot in 70-millimeter, because although I advocate seeing all of his (or any artist's) work in the proper format, Playtime on video is the same as 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) or Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) on video: the television monitor cannot possibly suffice. Details from Tati's mise en scène are muted. The spectrum of colour becomes limited. The reduction of a 70mm. presentation to the scale of a television set is similar to reducing the performance of a symphony orchestra to a badly done audiocassette.
The cool thing is that I saw Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm over the weekend, so after tonight I'm 2/3 of the way to hitting the movie geek triple crown!

Here is a tiny example in what is most assuredly the wrong format...

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