Jour de fête (1949)


(director/writer: Jacques Tati; screenwriter: Henri Marquet; cinematographers: Jacques Mercanton/Jacques Sauvageot; editor: Marcel Moreeau; music: Jean Yatove; cast: Jacques Tati (François, the postman), Paul Frankeur (Marcel), Guy Decomble (Roger), Santa Relli (Roger’s wife), Maine Vallee (Jeannette), Delcassan (The tattler), Roger Rafal (The hair-dresser); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Fred Orain; Hollywood Video; 1949-France-in French with English subtitles)

“Delightfully filled with physical slapstick and sight gags.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jacques Tati (“Mon Oncle”/”Playtime”/”Mr. Hulot’s Holiday”) directs and stars in his first feature film (an expanded version of his short “L’ecole des facteurs,” from his pre-Hulot days); it’s a pleasant, plotless comedy that is a talkie that seems more like a silent, something like a Buster Keaton silent, about a day in the life of a friendly, happy-go-lucky, awkward, gangly postman named François (Jacques Tati) in the sleepy postwar village of Saint-Severe, France. The dedicated postman, while delivering mail on Bastille Day, sees a documentary about the efficiency of the American postal system and though using an old bicycle as transportation hopes to deliver the mail as fast as they do in New York. They are so speedy because they use helicopters and motorbikes, but he devises hilarious shortcuts to speed up delivery. The black-and-white film has a few hand-colored scenes (using the experimental Thomson-Color process, which proved unreliable and wasn’t added until 1987 by Sophie Tatischeff, Tati’s second child, a film editor).

The film is delightfully filled with physical slapstick and sight gags, with Tati proving to be a master of pantomime. The pastoral idyll, the traveling fair, the merry-go-round, the friendly banter in town and the locals celebrating in the beer garden results in a splendid heart-warming homage to a long lost time period.