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Directed by Daniel Mann


Vanessa Redgrave (Julia) stars as Fania Fenelon, a Jewish cabaret singer in Paris during the Nazi invasion. Fania and thousands of other Jewish and political prisoners are sent to the Auschwitz death camp. She and a group of other classical musicians are spared from death in exchange for performing music for their captors, headed by SS camp matron Shirley Knight (The Rain People). They are also ordered to play for the thousands being herded to the gas chambers - a "humane" means of easing the condemned into the next world. PLAYING FOR TIME was adapted for television by Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman) and directed by Daniel Mann (The Rose Tattoo). The stellar cast also includes Jane Alexander (Testament), Maud Adams (Octopussy), Marisa Berenson (Barry Lyndon), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Verna Bloom (The Hired Hand), and Viveca Lindfors (Dark City). Winner of 4 Emmy Awards including Best Drama, Best Actress (Redgrave), Best Supporting Actress (Alexander), Best Teleplay (Miller), and winner of the 1981 Christopher and Peabody Awards.

Television Premiere: September 30th, 1980

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DVD Review: Olive Films - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Olive Films - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 2:28:25 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.53 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles None

Release Information:
Studio: Olive Films

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• none 

DVD Release Date:
September 7th, 2010
Keep Case
Chapters: 8



This is one of those films that you are not likely to forget anytime soon after viewing. I know I'm not the only one who reveres Vanessa Redgrave as one of the greatest actresses of all time. She is absolutely perfect in Playing For Time - embodying the role and making the Fania Fenelon character hers forever. What exemplifies her performance is the protesting levelled against her a couple of years previous for her "Zionist hoodlums" comment at the Oscars. Anyway...

This 2.5 hour film shares the dual-layered DVD with no extras and that would benefit the 'pushed' compression. It doesn't look bad at all. This is SD with a modest bitrate and, hence, has its limitations. I didn't find anything that deterred my viewing experience - there is some predictable noise but the 1.33 original aspect ratio rendering supported the film about as well as this medium could achieve on one disc. The dullness appears to be intentional. I don't mind saying that this is a film I think was deserved of a Blu-ray release and that would remove any niggling artefact issues. The tints for vintage footage and occasional infused sepia are stylistic choices that add a haunting aura to the image quality.  

Audio is unremarkable mono but clean and clear enough to appreciate the film and follow all the proceedings. There are no optional subtitles and no extras at all. I'm sure a lot could have been said about Playing For Time but any interviews or video supplements would require a second DVD disc and I guess it just wasn't in the cards from Olive Films Opus. 

This was directed by Daniel Mann - and I recall just loving the style of Our Man Flint from 1966. Playing For Time has a very unique feel - almost surrealistic with the tinted vintage stock showing the symbolic pain of trains and smoke/fire and the defeated desire fro rescue with allied planes crashing. Wow - this was something else to sit through. Probably one of the best TV films I can remember seeing and I believe this is the DVD premiere. The time is surely worth the investment and we give a strong recommendation!  

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Olive Films - Region 1 - NTSC

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