Playtime restoration


From Jerome Deschamps


Playtime was the only Jacques Tati movie shot in 70mm. The film was so damaged that it wasn’t possible to make new copies of it without restoring it.

Moreover, in 1979, because of financial troubles, Jacques Tati had to cut some parts of it, against his will, in order to tighten the time of the movie under 2 hours. These measures were imposed by his financial partners. Indeed, after Playtime’s shooting, Jacques Tati’s company bankrupted and all his movies were confiscated until 1976. He had to find financial partners to reverse this confiscation while losing most of his director’s rights.

On one hand, we had to repair the film physically, chemically, digitally, and the sound. And on the other hand, to restore the last version of the film corresponding to Jacques Tati’s artistic vision. So, we had to investigate to find the lost parts of the film in order to add them to the new 70mm print. Francois Ede lead this investigation, described in the book Playtime, co-written by Stephane Goudet, and published by Les Cahiers du Cinema.

We had to be sure of the cuts Tati was forced to make. We did some research on all the documents we had from that time and we were based also on two 35mm copies from Toulouse and Lausanne Cinematheques which confirmed our thoughts.

We must mention that because of financial reasons, all the copies were issued from the original film and not from an "interfilm", which is generally used to protect the film. Thus, the last copies from the original, issued in 1991, on the French Cinematheque initiative, put an end to any further use of this film. Indeed, it was torn and defaced on several sequences.

We began first by work on this damaged original film, then we checked and restored all the perforated parts, strengthened the multiple splices and the rips.

To protect the film and avoid any other damage, the Arane-Gulliver laboratory (only European laboratory working on 70mm) set up a 70mm immersion device with a special liquid treatment protecting the damaged areas. Then we printed a working copy of the film to see the remaining damage.

The un-restored sequences were sent to Los Angeles to be scanned, image after image. The digital data came back to France to piece back together the missing or torn images. These restored data went once more to Los Angeles to be photographed before being integrated to the new film in France.

The new version is as long as the Toulouse version, about 2h06 instead of 1h58.

The most damaged sequence was the first one of the movie, in particular most of the "false Hulots" have been cut from the first version. Thus, an essential idea of the movie has been obliterated – the idea of confusion, loneliness, perdition of individual in a society which sets up an organization of work, leisure and city where the individual can’t find his place anymore.