Jour de Fete (1949, Jacques Tati)

It’s hard for me to write about Jacques Tati movies, since mostly what I do is recount a movie’s story and actors I’ve seen before, and Tati films have almost no story and no actors I’ve seen before. Watched this one because I’d just seen M. Hulot’s Holiday when I found out The Illusionist would be playing theaters here, and thought I’d keep the Tati ball rolling.

Tati himself stars as a town postman inspired by an American newsreel and by his taunting neighbors to deliver the mail faster and more efficiently. So at least it has more of a story than M. Hulot’s Holiday (its story: “everyone is on vacation”) but really it’s the same type of movie as Holiday, gently introducing a bunch of characters and setting up unassuming comic situations which overlap in time and place, as Tati’s character guides us around town. This time I had even less sense than usual of who’s who in the cast, possibly because we watched the roughly-restored color version (first French film to be shot in color) on our TV, and in the wide shots (most of the film seems to be wide shots) faces looked blurry.

Funny that while he was breaking technological barriers, experimenting with color in this film and with scale in Playtime, he made such backward-looking movies. This may as well have been a silent film, and The Illusionist looks wistfully back from the late 50’s towards the heyday of vaudeville. Parade was his final anachronism, being one of the first-ever features shot on video and featuring mime performances in a circus tent. I can’t say I fell in love with Jour de fete, just found it to be a pleasant good time, but something about Tati’s movies and his career always keeps me fascinated, so I’m sure I’ll come back to watch it again.

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2 thoughts on “Jour de Fete (1949, Jacques Tati)

  1. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen Jour de Fete, unless it’s the B & W short subject that’s included on the Criterion DVD of “M. Hulot’s Holiday”…as you’ve described it, it was a nice pleasnat way to spend 20 or so minutes. And it was sort of an introduction to Tati’s sensiblility, which I find grows on me more every time I watch one of his films. So, I’m really looking forward to “The Illusionist”, even if it’s only about 10% Tati…that’s still 10% more than can be found elsewhere these days.

  2. True, Illusionist was completely worth watching… didn’t mean to be down on it, I just had ludicrously high expectations. The short is called “School for Postmen,” and I think its central concept and most of its jokes were expanded into the feature “Jour de Fete”, which Criterion probably hasn’t released yet because current restoration of the color version isn’t up to their quality standards. Or they just haven’t gotten around to it.

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