Friday, September 3, 2010

Play Time in 35mm

Just saw it at a revival house in Hollywood - I hate to admit it, but Blu-ray has an edge on it. Unless you got a really bad TV of course.
- Sent from my iPhone

And now it's the next morning! Just to elaborate on that...

I got a tip from Scott K., who has commented on my previous Play Time posts. He loves the film so much that he learned about a screening in Hollywood even though he doesn't live anywhere near here, so he wrote to me recommending that I go. I tried to round up some friends via Facebook but the only person I know who would be interested is an ex with a VERY jealous boyfriend, so I did something I frequently do, go to a movie alone.

This was a splendid opportunity to brush up on the difference between seeing a comedy alone and seeing it in a theatre. And the Silent Movie Theatre (legacy name, obviously) drew a packed house for its double feature of Tati and Chaplin's Modern Times. Kind of a rookie choice for a double feature, but nowadays there are no revival houses so a rookie choice is the ideal one. So lots of people there, favorably disposed toward Tati, knowledgeable about the grammar of film.

On the minus side, the print was dirty (though not scratched) and the projector was dim. If I'm not mistaken the bulb is optimized for the 1:1.33 aspect ratio of silent films, because Modern Times looked great. But blown up and diffused to 1:1.85 the light was a kind of grey pall on everything. Possibly the management wasn't aware, possibly they were just trying to save money, but it was a huge disadvantage to a movie that needs every break it can get.

Anyway, this was my third viewing of Play Time (a different format each time!) so what did I get out of this one? I feel less alienated to the movie now. The first time it seemed not so much a comedy as a depiction of the world as seen through the eyes of an Aspberger's Syndrome sufferer. Now it's charming and sweet. I spotted a couple of new gags (that will happen every time I see it, they tell me). But the one thing I had confirmed by audience reaction is, for the most part, Play Time just isn't very funny. It's brilliant and admirable and it changes the way we look at movies, but it is NOT a laugh riot. And unlike Chaplin, it doesn't pull at the heart strings either.

If there's EVER an opportunity to see it in 70mm though, I'm totally there.


  1. I'm glad that you were able to go, Daniel!

    One correction: I am a Los Angeleno, but I'm presently working out-of-town and therefore unable to make last night's screening.

    It's disappointing that the print and projection were less than optimal.

    I have seen the 70mm restoration several times, all in the L.A. area: The American Cinematheque at both The Egyptian in Hollywood and The Aero in Santa Monica, and the James Bridges Theatre at UCLA.

    I'll let you know the next time it shows in 70mm in Los Angeles!

  2. Thanks Scott... you will be my eyes and ears. Wait, just be my ears. I need my eyes for the fine details.

    I feel bad about knocking the Silent Movie theatre. Revival houses are pretty hard to come by nowadays, and even a 35mm screening is better than none, though I bet a digital screening of the Blu-Ray disc would have been better, if only to steady the picture a little.