Friday, May 6, 2016

Jour de Fête

Jour de Fête (Jacques Tati, 1949) Tati's first feature length film, featuring the protagonist, François the rural postman (played by Tati), and many of the jokes re-bicycled from his 1947 short The School for Postmen. Tati expands it with the story of a town's preparations for a big festival, and all the dangers for mayhem that accompany a feature of fun.  

Francois is on his daily rounds, done at their usual leisurely pace, but even more so for all the trouble the slightly officious fâcheux of a mailman can find to distract himself. But, the next day, inspired by an newsreel of how Americans are improving the speed of their mail delivery, he endeavors to increase the tempo of his route.

That's it in a nutshell, but the details, as with most silent comedies (although Jour de Fête isn't silent), are where the enjoyable bits are. François is a more manic character than Tati's laid-back Mr. Hulot, and has a puppy-like fascination with just about everything and a cat-killing curiosity that gets him into both hot and cold water. He is everybody's dork with a title, sure of himself and the only one in the room who is. But his intentions are good.  His results are variable.
Tati filmed Jour de Fête twice, one version in black and white, and another using a color process called Thomson-color, a dicey system and lab that, unfortunately, went out of business before the film could be processed. The black and white version was released to success, but to Tati's dissatisfaction. In 1962, he re-released it with a sub-plot about a sketch artist making pictures of the festival, and as the artist added colors to his black and white drawings, the colors would appear in the film, hand-tinted onto the film (this is the version of it I saw). Increasingly, as the day wears on, more and more parts of the fair are tinted, sometimes surprising in what the choices are. 

Thirteen years after Tati's death, his daughter Sophie and French cinematographer Françoise Ede (who'd made a documentary about Tati's Playtime) managed to find the color elements and restore the Thomson-color version for the 1995 DVD release in France. 

It was released—along with the black-and-white and tinted versions—in 2014 as a Criterion release.

The Three Lives of Jour de Fête
Black and White


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