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Even though it hasn't been seen in the version originally released in cinemas in 1949 for years, Jacques Tati's Jour de Fete is still one of the most truly delightful comedies ever made. Expanded from his marvellous short film Ecole des Facteurs, made two years earlier, the majority of the film is a beautifully observed comedy about the foibles of a small village as it gets ready for and enjoys its annual Bastille Day fair. There's not much plot, just a series of little vignettes - trying to raise a flagpole, an unspoken flirtation between the merry-go-round man and a local girl under the watchful eye of his wife, a jukebox that won't work, paint that won't dry - while a crookbacked old goose woman passes the odd comment. Yet it's filled with beautiful sight gags, with the whole town, its animals and even balloons and bicycles seeming to conspire with the filmmaker with their uncanny comic timing. With his lanky frame and baggy pants, Tati gets great comic mileage out of his bicycle in particular, whether he's trying to make his way home after a few too many or trying to show the village that he can be just as speedy and efficient at his job as the American postmen in a newsreel. Sweet without being sickly, good natured without being twee, it benefits from Tati's great eye both for visual composition and small details like the girls limping home at the end of the day without losing sight of the bigger picture, opening and closing with perfect symmetry as a child skips after the truck carrying the Merry-Go-Round horses, first as it moves towards the village and finally as it departs to the accompaniment of Jean Yatove's charming score.

As with Polygram's video release and the BFI's earlier DVD, the Blu-ray release includes the original colour version that Tati shot but was never able to use in his lifetime when the company whose colour system he used went bust. Instead, Tati released a black and white version that was shot at the same time as what turned out to be a very wise precaution, but sadly the disc doesn't include that version. Instead it includes Tati's 1964 reissue version that reworked the film less than successfully.

While you can understand the rationale for the changes he made, they really do the film no favours. Along with slight tweaks to the editing, he introduced the new character of a visiting artist in newly shot sequences who observes and comments (sadly far too much) on the action. It sounds like the right sort of idea for the reissue, since by the early sixties the way of life the film gently celebrates was already almost extinct, but it doesn't work at all. Despite being shot in the same locations, he never interacts with anyone, changing the emphasis from the original version's insider's view of village life to that of an outsider. Worse still, in the English language version he's a very patronising figure, and one who won't shut up even when he has nothing to say - and unfortunately he's almost the only voice left in the picture. While the villagers do still speak, he often speaks over them, and when he doesn't they're not subtitled in English so many jokes and plot points are lost. The effect is unfortunately like one of those foreign children's programmes that they couldn't afford to dub with a full cast and just had one voice over telling you what you're watching. To make it even worse, the English narrator has the audacity to complain about the goose woman who sparingly narrated the original for `muttering to herself'!

Then there's the colour. Tati clearly hadn't entirely abandoned the idea of a more colourful film, but here that takes the form of the artist adding a few splashes of colour to his sketches which are suddenly mirrored in the film itself as the tricolour and decorations get a bit of red and blue grafted on them on the otherwise monochrome film. Unfortunately it's more distracting than complimentary, especially since the effect is highly variable. As with his reissue version of M. Hulot's Holiday, which added a joke spoofing Jaws, Tati does make one change to Francois getting changed at the Post Office so that we never see him getting changed but simply hear him and see the creaking steps as he runs up and down. It's a nice visual touch, but it's ultimately no more effective than the gag it replaces, and as with so much else in this version it tends to sideline the people who were once at the heart of the film.

Also included are Tati's three short films, the first two displaying a huge influence on Jour De Fete. 1936's Soigne ton Gauche, directed by Rene Clement, is set in a small village and features a postman on a bicycle in shots that would be copied in the later feature (as would Yatove's jaunty theme music), but this time Tati isn't the one in uniform but is playing a Ray Bolger-like farmhand who gets hired as a sparring partner for a visiting boxer in training. It's all a bit shapeless and less funny as it goes along, but the second, 1947's L'Ecole des Facteurs, is one of the best things Tati ever did. Starting off with Tati and two other new recruits finishing their training before following him on his first round, it virtually is the climax of Jour de Fete - stamping the letters on the back of the truck, tangling with the level crossing, chasing the runaway bike, outrunning the racing cyclists - in a neat 14 minutes, this time with Tati taking the director's chair as well as the starring role. Also included is 1967's Cours du Soir, partially filmed on the set built for Playtime before retiring indoors for a not particularly funny and at times interminably drawn-out lecture on mime with a few practical examples, including a throwback to Francois the postman.

Unfortunately the BFI's Blu-ray release is slightly disappointing despite nearly getting it right. While it includes the Thomson-Color version and the 1964 reissue version, it doesn't include the black and white original French release, which has slight differences to the colour version as well as better picture quality. While it's a good restoration, especially considering the colour system became obsolete in post-production, forcing Tati to release the black and white version he filmed at the same time as a precaution, the colour version has modern titles, a new closing shot and suffers from the limitations of the early colour process. This tends to soften detail, has some lines that look a bit like it's being projected onto high quality bonded velum paper and has the tones of a faded forties postcard, while some shots in the restoration are actually colorized black and white. The quality on the 1964 version is very inconsistent, initially being much cleaner before reverting to very obviously duped material for anything in the same reel as the partially-coloured sequences, becoming quite bad indeed in the too dark night scenes. Far worse is that the BFI have only included the English language version, without subtitles, even though they originally released the French version with subtitles - and crucially without the artist's endless yakking - on video.

And while it's wonderful that they've included the three Tati short films that they didn't include on their original DVD releases, these have only been included on the DVD version on this dual format release and haven't been remastered from the old deleted video release. L'Ecole des Facteurs in particular shows a lot of DNR work that adds an unwelcome blur to many shots. Similarly the trailer included is the 1995 colour reissue trailer despite being listed as the original trailer. All of which niggles do rather leave you with the feeling that they've stopped short of giving it the kind of definitive release it deserves. Still, it's the best English-friendly version for the time being, and the original version is still a delight.
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VINE VOICEon 3 November 2012
Here, we have Jacques Tati's first feature film (intended to be the first French colour feature, although it didn't quite work out like this) and several extras. Presented here is the restored colour version of the original film. This falls slightly short of the perfection and class of Tati's later efforts (Les Vacances, Mon Oncle and Playtime), but has plenty of clever jokes, several stunts, and is amazingly atmospheric, showing a France that could have existed for ever. This is presented in HD and looks as good as it's going to (I saw it in the cinema and it looked slightly pixellated then--Technicolor it isn't).

The enclosed booklet explains the problems with making a colour print, and why it couldn't be done until the 1990s.

We also have a crisp transfer of the stencil-coloured 1964 version, where Tati added a painter to give an additional, English commentary (and obviate the need for subtitles). I like this version of the film. I was intrigued to see if it matched the BFI VHS of the 1990s. Bizarrely, that VHS version has the same painter, but lacks the overdubbed English commentary and has subtitles. The VHS version therefore remains unissued on disc, and no reference is made to it in the booklet in this package. Having said that, I think the version presented is superior for Anglophone audiences, and should be visually identical.

Included is the BFI's former Tati Shorts VHS, the three films Soigne ton Gauche (reissue print), L'Ecole des Facteurs (the template for Jour de Fete) and Playtime-era Cours du Soir. It is disappointing that fresh transfers in HD have not been made of these films, and they appear on the DVD only (not the Blu-Ray). Quality of these items is adequate.

Tati fans will doubtless want this package, and it's a perfect opportunity to get two versions of Jour de Fete in superb quality. If you want to see the French 1964 version, you'll need to look out the old BFI VHS.

Purchasers may be interested to know that, coming soon, some of ABC Weekend Television's Tempo series is coming to DVD, including a show on Tati: Tempo - Volume 1 [DVD]
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on 7 November 2012
the previous reviewer summed it up perfectly all i can add is that if you have this already on dvd it may not be worth the upgrade to blu-ray unless you are a Tati nut and have to have everything as the picture quality in both versions is not a patch on the other three BFI Tati collection releases
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on 6 January 2014
I always loved tati, especially as you had to look carefully for the little jokes you'd miss if you weren't paying attention(chauffer smiling at camera at start of playtime anyone?) what makes this release great is the number of extras- alternative version of the movie which is quite different and three short films! Now if only someone would release all his short films or slyvia and the phantom we could have the complete tati.
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on 14 January 2015
Quirky but fun in the gallic visual comedy mime style
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on 8 March 2015
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on 16 February 2013
Alors que les autres films de Tati ont eu le droit a une remastorisation correct .Le master de Jour de fete est a peine plus correct qu'une VSH.
J'espere que gaumont qui a les droits du film en France fera un travail digne de sa reputation.
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on 13 November 2013
there's a French release of all tati's on bluray coming up, march 2014.
if they're using the cinema DCP-transfers i've just seen you'd best wait for them...
look at amazon france
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on 17 December 2014
The condition was reasonable.
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