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JOUR DE FETE

France, 1949 (MIFF 1954, Programme 2)

Director: Jacques Tati

The narrative of "Jour de Fete" is as thin as is conceivable. There would be none at all were it not for the postman, Jacques Tati. He is the film. Six feet five inches in his stockinged feet, dark, bony and clumsy, he wears a shabby uniform with sleeves and trousers a few inches too short. In this uniform he rides a Peugeot bicycle (1908 model), delivers mail to the village and neighbouring farms, and enjoys a bit of small talk with everyone around. The distinctive mental trait of the postman is devastating goodwill. He is somewhat discontented with the leisurely rhythm of work enjoyed by his colleagues, and indeed by the whole village, and is easily persuaded to follow the high standards of "la poste en Amerique" which he sees in a newsreel at the fair. So out he goes to break all records, pestered on his way by bees and impeded by road repairs and level crossings, by village kids and goats.

Three cameramen, three actors, and Jacques Tati lived in a little French village of St. Severe for six months to make the film. The whole of the film was shot there with the exception of a few scenes which take place in a cafe and which called for a week in the studio. The people of the fair willingly joined in as bit actors. The cost of the film was under £15,000.

The humour of the film relies wholly on the talent of Jacques Tati. He has a delightfully awkward silhouette - he walks with a spring on the balls of his feet. His speech is funny merely by virtue of its sound and owes nothing to repartee. But his greatest talent is for miming. He mimes sports. He was once a rugger player for the Racing Club of France and also for a London Club. He used to amuse his team mates with impressions of racing cyclists, anglers, boxers, soccer and rugger players. This eventually led to a music hall act which toured Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and England. Tati wrote the original script of “Jour de Fete” and directed it to show his miming capabilities.

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