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Jour de fête ("The Big Day") is a 1949 film directed by, written by, and starring Jacques Tati.

It was shot in the village of Sainte-Sévère-sur-Indre, where Tati in Real Life lived during the Nazi occupation of France. In the movie, it's carnival day, as a traveling fair (not much more than a merry-go-round and a movie projection booth) has arrived in the sleepy village. The protagonist is Francois (Tati), the bumbling, ineffectual mailman. The villagers and the carnies both make fun of the slow-witted Francois. When the carnival's theatre shows a newsreel about lightning-fast American mailmen, the villagers make fun of Francois, who pokes around the village on a bicycle. Offended, Francois resolves to deliver the mail as fast as he can, in the American style.

Jacques Tati's first feature film. Shot in an experimental color format that Tati proved unable to process, forcing the release of a black-and-white print; the color version was finally restored and released in the 1990s.

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Tropes:

  • Bookends: In the opening scene a little boy follows the carnival as it enters the town. In the closing scene a little boy follows the carnival as it leaves town.
  • Brick Joke: The clumsy villagers are trying to erect a flagpole in the square. Bondu, owner of the cafe, makes sure to remove the plant he has in a pot outside, because he's pretty sure the flagpole will fall down on that spot. Francois comes zipping through the village on his bicycle, and narrowly misses being crushed by the falling flagpole. He avoids the flagpole by careening into Bondu's cafe, where he runs into and wrecks the plant.
  • Clucking Funny: At one point a very drunk Francois attempts to deliver a letter, but stumbles into a chicken coop. An angry chicken flaps out the door over his head.
  • Comically Cross-Eyed
    • Francois is trying to get a villager to hammer a post into the ground. The villager consistently misses to the left. After Francois notices that the villager is badly cross-eyed, he puts a second nail on the left side of the post, and tells the villager to keep aiming to the right. After the villager hammers the left nail into the ground while aiming at the right, Francois moves him to the other side of the post and has him do it again.
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    • Later the cross-eyed man is trying to win the carnie game where you throw a ball at a pyramid of milk bottles. He is trying to hit the pyramid on the left side, but instead hits the pyramid on the right.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Averted. Tati shot in both black and white and an experimental color process called Thomsencolor. When the process proved too experimental and the Thomsencolor people couldn't develop the film negative, the movie was released in black and white. Decades later the color print was finally developed and released, although the black and white print is still shown as well.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Not much more than 24 hours, from the carnival's arrival to the next morning where Francois attempts to deliver the mail very fast.
  • Fixing the Game: One carnie has a game where he spins a wheel and contestants try and guess where it will stop. He reaches back with his foot to stop the wheel when he wants to let a pretty girl win the game.
  • Fruit Cart: Sort of. As Francois is zooming through town trying to deliver the mail in the fast American way, he crashes into a man carrying a barrel of apples. Apples spill everywhere.
  • Greek Chorus: The old lady, hunchbacked with age, who delivers sarcastic commentary throughout about the citizens of the town.
  • Percussive Maintenance: In the cafe the patrons are dancing, but the player piano won't work. They appeal to Francois to fix it. After he futzes with it for a little bit, he whacks it with his fist, and then the piano plays a polka.
  • Rake Take: On two different occasions while erecting the flagpole in the square, Francois manages to step on a rake which whacks him in the face.
  • Reveal Shot: Francois steps into a home. He finds a man getting dressed in a suit, and says "All gussied up for the big day?" The camera then turns as Francois leaves to show a dead body in a funeral suit on the bed.
  • Running Gag: All the people who keep trying to sit in the wet paint of the freshly painted seats outside Boudu's cafe.
  • Sexy Silhouette: Roger, the carnie who owns the merry-go-round, notices the silhouette of Jeannette the village girl as she's changing in her room across the square.
  • Silence Is Golden: This film is more verbal than Tati's later projects, but there is still a lot of silent comedy, most especially in the long sequence near the end where Francois goes on a madcap race through town trying to deliver mail as fast as he can. Tati's later films with the Monsieur Hulot character had hardly any dialogue at all.
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