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|Jour de fête|
|Directed by||Jacques Tati|
|Written by||Henri Marquet|
|Produced by||André Paulvé|
|May 4, 1949 (France)|
|86 min (black-and-white version)|
78 min (color version)
Jour de fête (The Big Day) is a 1949 French comedy film starring Jacques Tati in his feature film directorial debut as an inept and easily distracted mailman in a backward French village. Shot largely in and around Sainte-Sévère-sur-Indre, where Tati had lived during the Occupation, most of the actors were unknown and villagers served as extras.
On a public holiday, a young boy watches a travelling fair arrive in his village of Sainte-Sévère-sur-Indre. Among the locals is François, the amiable and bumbling mailman, whom everybody likes but nobody takes seriously. Marcel and Roger, the two men running the fair, make him their butt and get him drunk. In the cinema tent, people watch a spoof documentary that contrasts the unbelievable efficiency of the US post office with the antiquated French post office. They decide that François must get up to date and, although he only has a bicycle, must start using transatlantic dash in his delivery. In the end, exhausted by his frantic efforts, he stops to help a family pitchfork their new-mown hay into a horse-drawn cart, while the boy from the opening scene completes the deliveries on François's route.
In Jour de fête, several characteristics of Tati's work appear for the first time in a full-length film. Largely a visual comedy in the silent tradition, dialogue is used at times to tell part of the story and an ancient woman with a goat appears sybil-like on occasions as a commentator. Music is mostly diegetic, coming from the carousel, the village brass band, and the pianola in the bar. Sound effects are a vital element, with imaginative use of voices and other background noises, particularly of birds, to provide both ambiance and humor.
Giving a sympathetic portrayal of what was already a vanishing way of life, where the villagers do not yet have cars or tractors and water comes from the pump, the film introduces what would be a key theme of Tati's films. Instead of rounded individuals rooted in communities, changes in Western society were turning people into operators of technology and consumers of its products. Though much of this trend originated in the USA, France was catching up fast. Critics have noted how Tati turns the human body, with its inbuilt limitations, into a form of machine that performs tasks.
A hidden factor in this and following films is that the old world of rural France is shown as one of curves, in space and in time, with people and their livestock following fluid relaxed routines, while the new world modelled on the USA operates on straight lines in rigid timeframes, symbolised by François literally cutting corners to speed up his round.
The movie was originally filmed in both black-and-white and Thomsoncolor, an early and untried color film process. In using both formats, Tati feared that Thomsoncolor might not be practical, a well-founded concern when the firm proved unable to complete the processing. A colour version has subsequently been released, with a prologue detailing the failure of the original colour recording and asserting that the new version is in accordance with the director's intentions. This version is in fact the work of Sophie Tatischeff, editor and daughter of Jacques Tati, and François Ede, cinematographer, who meticulously edited and restored the film from the original camera negative which had been preserved and stored away for years. The optical system device that allowed the restitution of the colors was restored and allowed, more than forty years after the shooting, to produce the original colors of the film.
Over 7 million tickets for Jour de fête had been sold in French cinemas up to 2015, making it one of the top 40 most popular French films of all time.
- Guigueno, Vincent (1995), "L'écran de la productivité: "Jour de fête" et l'américanisation de la société française", Vingtième Siècle. Revue D'histoire, vol. 46, Sciences Po University Press, pp. 117–24, doi:10.2307/3771551, JSTOR 3771551
- Daney, Serge (1983), "La rampe", Cahiers du cinéma, Paris, pp. 113–1
- Deleuze, Gilles (1985), L'image-temps, Paris: Minuit, p. 89
- "Entretiens avec Jacques Tati. Propos rompus", Les Cahiers du cinéma, vol. 303, September 1979, p. 15
- "TOP250 All-Time". www.jpbox-office.com. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
- "The Big Day (Jour de Fete) (1952) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2 January 2021.