Jour de Fête (1949)

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Released 8-Dec-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Notes-Alternative Versions
Trailer-Original Tati Trailer Reel
Trailer-The Leopard, La Strada, The Battle Of Algiers
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1949
Running Time 76:36
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jacques Tati
Studio
Distributor
Panoramic Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Guy Decomble
Jacques Tati
Paul Frankeur
Santa Relli
Maine Vallée
Delcassan
Roger Rafal
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Jean Yatove


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   French comic master Jacques Tati co-wrote, directed and starred in Jour de fête. It marked his feature film debut, and is regarded by many critics as a masterpiece.

   In 1947, Tati made a short film entitled L'ecole des facteurs (School for Postmen), which featured the character of François, the Postman. It was this character that Tati re-visited and expanded on for the main character in Jour de fête.

   The films opens with a fifty four second introduction, explaining the restoration of the film. I will explain more about this later in the review.

   The annual travelling carnival is coming to the village of  Sainte-Severe-sur-Indre, and it has everyone from the mayor to the town's children buzzing with anticipation. The film opens with the panic of preparation for what is obviously the major event on the village calendar.

   Amongst the chaos, François the postman (Jacques Tati) arrives in the village on his daily round, and quickly takes control of erecting the flag pole. The hotel owner (Jacques Beauvais), is trying to secure ribbons to the front of his shop. The barber (Roger Rafal) keeps sticking his nose out the front door to check on progress. And of course, the village ladies are busy putting the finishing touches on their new dresses. The old lady of the village has seen many years of this bedlam, and explains to the audience about these characters. Her experience is so great of this annual event that she can even predict what these people will do in all the confusion.

   When Roger (Guy Decomble), the carnival owner arrives, the village children are eager to help set up the carousel, which is the main attraction for the young folk. Of course, this quaint little carnival would not be complete without the sideshows and the cinema tent. These are the attractions for the adults, so it seems.

   The cinema is showing a documentary about America's modern postal delivery service. Peeping through the side of the tent, François watches in horror as this radical and speedy approach to mail delivery is shown to the village folk. The reaction to this revelation is one of awe from the villagers. Later, they begin to taunt François, comparing his delivery to the speed and accuracy of the American service. It's then that François decides to give the village a mail service to be proud of, and more importantly, to show those Americans.

   The behind-the-scenes story of the film is an interesting one. Jour de fête was to be France's first feature film in colour. Tati was set to film using a new colour process called Thomson Colour. It was hoped that Thomson Colour would overtake Technicolor in the industry, but of course, history tells us that this didn't happen. It was such an experimental and complicated process that processing a final print proved impossible at the time.

   The only reason a film existed at all was through some wise insurance. Jacques Tati actually filmed using two cameras, one using the new colour film and the other using black and white stock. The cameras were placed side by side, and filmed exactly the same scenes. Because the colour film was totally useless at the time, the black and white version was subsequently released in 1949.

   In 1964 Tati decided to re-edit, re-mix the sound and hand colour the titles on the film. He also chose to film extra footage, adding another character, that of a painter. This version became the standard, until fairly recently.

   In 1995 the film was given a painstaking restoration. This involved using the original colour film where possible, and using computer colourisation techniques for the remaining film. Of interest though are night scenes - they have been left in black and white.

   The fact that Tati passed away in 1982 meant this process would have been sacrilege if not for the two people involved. The process was supervised by Tati's daughter, Sophie Tatischeff and  cameraman, Francois Ede. Sophie was a respected film editor in her own right, and she had an excellent understanding of her father's use of colour in the film. She also chose to remove the character of the painter to bring the film back to its original concept. (Sophie unfortunately passed away in 2001).

   With the 1995 restoration, we now have a version that is as close as we will ever get to the true Jour de fête, as Tati originally intended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is excellent, taking all things into consideration.

    The presented aspect ratio is 1.33:1 fullscreen. It is not 16x9 enhanced. I am confident in saying this is a Full Frame transfer. The film's original aspect ratio is 1.37:1.

    Sharpness ranges greatly, from very soft in some scenes to being oversharp in others. This is more than likely a legacy of the source material, rather than a transfer problem. This is also the case with film grain being apparent in some scenes. Either way it doesn't cause much of a distraction for the viewer. There was no real evidence of low level noise. Indeed, I found black levels were quite impressive. Shadow detail varied quite considerably between scenes, but unless you were particularly looking for this, it wouldn't be noticed. Overall, shadows held detail very well.

   Colours are wonderfully soft and pastel. It's amazing just how well these soft pastel colours suit this film. There is certainly a slight difference in the level of colour between some scenes. This may be the digitally coloured film against the natural colour film. Bright whites tend to be overbright and glow, giving a slight bleeding appearance. This was particularly evident early in the film.

    I found no MPEG artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts were present on a minor scale. Aliasing occurred a couple of times on window shutters. There was some very slight telecine wobble during the opening credits. Edge enhancement was minor, and caused no concern. Film artefacts were present, mainly small scratches here and there. None of the artefacts were of any great distraction.

    The only subtitles present are in English. They are in yellow and are easily legible.

    This disc is single sided, single layer, so there is no layer change to negotiate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is also excellent, for its age.

    There is only one audio track available, this being French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s). There didn't appear to be any separation between the channels, but it is a very clean track. Background hiss, pops and clicks are all very well controlled.

    Dialogue and audio sync both appear to be excellent and clear, although my French is not of a high standard.

    The musical score was composed by Jean Yatove. It is very whimsical, and it complements this light-hearted film perfectly. I found it slightly reminiscent of Nino Rota's music for many of Fellini's films.

    The surrounds and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   Unfortunately, there is a shortage of extras on the disc, which was a big disappointment.

   The menu design is basic, and themed around the film. It features looped music from the film on the main menu only. This music is in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). The menu's are not animated, but are 16x9 enhanced.

Notes: Alternative Endings

   One page of text explaining the different versions of the film. This page has no audio.

Trailers: Original Tati Trailer Reel

   Three trailers of films by Jacques Tati: Play Time (2:56), Mon Oncle (1:01), and Les Vacances de M. Hulot (1:31) All are in French, with no subtitles. The first trailer is in Dolby Digital 2.0 - the other two are Dolby Digital 1.0.

Madman Propaganda: Trailers

   The Leopard (3:08), La Strada (2:03), The Battle of Algiers (2:26). All these trailers are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   Strangely, I could not find any information relating to an R1 version of the film. I did however discover an R2 UK version. It is basically the same as this all region version minus the Madman Propaganda trailers. It also contains subtitles for the hard of hearing, which the R4 version does not.

  There is also an R2 French NTSC version. This contains quite a few extras that are missing from this all region version. The extras include; L'ecole des facteurs, (the short film I mentioned earlier), information on the colouring of the film, critiques and a filmography.

  Another excellent version I discovered is an R2 PAL version from Finland. This version contains subtitles in Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish, with extras including Jacques Tati's short films: Soigne Ton Gauche (1936) (11:53), L'Ecole des Facteurs (1947) (14:25), Cours du Soir (1967) (26:30); and Jacques Tati biography (9 page in English). This version would be the clear winner for French-speaking Tati fans.

    I'd stick with this all region version.

Summary

   Jour de fête is a beautiful film, depicting the great sense of community in a time long past. Although some elements of the humour may have dated, it still holds much of its comic value even by today's standards. Much as the great comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton laid the foundations for comedy in cinema, Tati's work must also take credit for giving inspiration to many filmmakers since.

   If you own an old VHS copy of the film, then it's time to throw it in the bin. This is an excellent presentation on DVD of a true cinema classic.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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