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Jour de fete
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Region B
  • Jour de fete (1964 version)
  • Soigne ton gauche (Rene Clement, 1936, 12 mins, DVD only): Tati stars as a farmhand in this boxing comedy
  • L'ecole des facteurs (Jacques Tati, 1947, 13 mins, DVD only): The first short directed by Tati which was later expanded to become Jour de fete
  • Cours de soir (Nicholas Ribowski, 1967, 27 mins, DVD only): Tati stars as a teacher of mime in an evening class
  • Jour de fete trailer (DVD only)
  • Fully illustrated booklet with film notes and credits

Jour de fete

Dual Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jacques Tati
Starring: Jacques Tati, Guy Decomble
1949 | 81 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £19.99 | Series: BFI
BFI Video

Release Date: October 29, 2012
Review Date: October 28, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

Jacques Tati's award-winning feature debut - a dazzling blend of satire and slapstick - was early evidence of his unique talent. Acclaimed by international critics as an innovative comic masterpiece, Jour de Fete is an hilarious expose of the modern obsession with speed and efficiency, set amidst the rural surroundings of a tiny French village.

Tati plays an appealingly self-deluded buffoon, Francois - a postman who, impressed by the bristling efficiency of the U.S. postal system, makes a wholly misguided attempt to introduce modern methods in the depths of rural France. Initially released in black and white, but also shot in Thomsoncolor, an untested colour process, the film has been restored and is finally available in its original delicate colour.

Jour de Fete at first aroused little interest among French distributors. Not until after its London premiere in March 1949, when it got good reviews and went on general release, did the French industry sit up and take notice. It won a prize for 'best scenario' at the Venice Film Festival, and in 1950 it was awarded the 'Grand Prix du Cinema Francais'.


PICTURE

BFI presents the Thomsoncolor version of Jacques Tatiís Jour de fÍte in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The new high-definition digital transfer is delivered in 1080p/24hz on a dual-layer disc. This disc is Region B locked and will not work on North American Region A players.

I was pleased with what we get and BFI has certainly done a highly commendable job in delivering what they have, but there are a number of shortcomings simply because of the source materials. The film was intended to be in colour and Tati used a little known process called Thomsoncolor, though this proved to be an issue when it came time to print the positives: the company went under and Tati was unable to make any positive prints from what he had filmed. He had thankfully had a black-and-white camera as back-up so he was able to release a black-and-white version of the film and it wasnít until 1995 when technology allowed the original colour version to be reconstructed.

That is what we get here and in general Iím actually quite impressed. Colours never leap out and can have a dirty look to them, but theyíre there and look decent, and become more vibrant as the film moves ahead (the idea that the village becomes more ďaliveĒ so to speak as the story moves on.) Unfortunately the source materials are littered with various problems, the most noticeable of which are vertical lines that are there throughout just about the entirety of the film and are a side effect of the Thomsoncolor process apparently. These create some issues in the look, primarily jagged edges that are just about always noticeable in certain patterns and the collars of the uniform Tatiís postman wears. These lines disappear when what Iím guessing are hand painted sequences are inserted instead. The image is also never all that sharp, another limitation of the technology I fear, and colours do bleed. Damage is somewhat heavy, with dirt, debris, and some blotches and stains, but they only pop up once in a while and are not a constant nuisance.

I think the digital transfer itself handles things well, though, other than some minor issues with the vertical lines, like the jaggies. The rest of the transfer is stable and clean and looks natural, so at the very least even if the source has its share of issues the digital transfer doesnít enhance them or make them worse in any way. In the end itís easily the best presentation of the film available currently.

6/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Audio was actually a pleasant surprise. The 1.0 lossless linear PCM mono track has some decent power and depth to it. The music sounds particularly good, rarely showing its age and it doesnít sound distorted or edgy. Voices are a little hard to hear at times but seeing as this is Tati, even though itís his first film, itís more than likely intentional. The track also sounds very clean and I didnít notice any noticeable damage that detracted from the viewing.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This is surprisingly light for a BFI release but we do get some decent material. The biggest inclusion is the 79-minute 1964 alternate cut to the film. Presented in black-and-white this version edits in some new footage presenting an artist watching the filmís events in the village while also providing an English narration. I wasnít particularly fond of it as it actually manages to distance us more from the action, despite the fact that other than some trims and the addition of the new character the film is almost the same. Probably a curiosity more for me and not one I may revisit.

The remaining supplements are found on the DVD also included in the set. The DVD features a standard-definition version of the main feature as well as a standard-definition version of the alternate 1964 version.

Also found on this disc are three short films either directed by or starring Tati, and all feature Tatiís postman in one form or another. All three have actually appeared on Criterionís Tati releases. First is Soigne ton gauche, a 12-minute film directed by Rene Clement and starring Tati, made in 1936. Itís a rather amusing physical comedy that finds Tatiís character inadvertently training to become a boxer (literally reading from a ďhow-toĒ booklet as he fights.) It displays Tatiís early knack for physical comedy and is quite charming. (This short is also found on Criterionís DVD of M. Hulotís Holiday.)

Líecole des facteurs is the 1947 short that influenced Jour de fÍte, even featuring some of the same gags, and was directed by Tati. It features Tatiís postman going out and doing his rounds after a quick class on how to be a postman. Again it shows Tatiís natural ability for physical comedy. It runs 12-minutes. (The short can also be found on Criterionís DVD of Mon Oncle.)

Finally we get the 27-minute Cours du soir, made in 1967 and directed by Nicolas Ribowski. In it Tati teaches a class on the subtleties of physical humour, and some of the humour found in here involves the students not being so good at it. I found it maybe a little too long and it may be my least favourite of the shorts but it works best as a sort of retrospective of Tatiís career, recalling some of his more popular moments, his postman even making an appearance. (This short also appears on Criterionís DVD and Blu-ray editions of Playtime.)

The shorts are actually all in pretty nice condition, looking better than how I recall them looking on the early Criterion DVDs. It also looks like Cour du soir comes from the same newer transfer that Criterion used for their DVD and Blu-ray reissues of Playtime. Itís disappointing that we donít get them in high-definition but I can only guess there arenít any high-def masters of them yet (I believe the version of Cours du soir that appeared on Criterionís Blu-ray of Playtime was still in standard-definition.)

The disc then closes with a short theatrical trailer that Iím guessing was for a theatrical run for the 1995 colour restoration. You can also clearly see that the vertical lines are still there in the colour sequences, showing itís an issue with the source and not with the transfer.

BFI then includes a booklet but itís a much slimmer one in comparison to what Iím normally used to. We get an essay by Philip Kemp followed by a short biography of Tati. We then get some notes on the 1964 version and all three short films included in this release.

Overall this release is disappointingly slim but the material is all worth going through and I think the inclusion of the alternate í64 cut and the three Tati shorts offer some decent value.

5/10

CLOSING

Despite the limitations in the source, side effects of the colour process Tati used for the film, I still think BFI has pulled off a strong presentation. The digital transfer itself is solid and very stable, at least keeping a film-like look. For this the disc comes with a high recommendation.




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