Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1949: Jour de fête (Jacques Tati)
The only time I ever saw this was at its “Color Premiere” in France in 1995. Tati wanted it to be the first French feature shot in color, but technology at the time wouldn’t allow him to release it that way. Fortunately, he also shot a black an white version, and that’s all that existed from 1949-1995.
I’ve never seen the black and white version so I can’t say with certainty, but it is one of these films where I really remember the colors. I can only think this film’s impact and power grew after it was re-released (it was Tati’s daughter, by the way, that did the restoration.)
To me, this is definitely a sibling film to Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons. Tati always seemed to have a fascination with the negative effects of technology. But of all his work I’ve seen, this one affects me the most. Like Ambersons, this movie is obsessed with the idea of our world getting faster and faster, and the dehumanization that follows.
As I hinted at in my Ambersons post, at this point in my career that theme is probably more important to me than any other. And Tati gets at it in his own special way, with humor, satire, and in a brilliant style that he made all his own.
What moviemakers can learn: Don’t think you can only make a statement with dramatic material. Jacques Tati used comedy and satire to make as piquant observations about us as any filmmaker ever has.
Other contenders for 1949: As with other years, there are still a few major titles I need to see, among them Caught and The Reckless Moment, both by Max Ophüls. Meanwhile there are so many films that I like from this year that I have decided to create three tiers of runners-up: Films that I really like, films that I love, and films that are extremely close runners-up. The films in the first category are: Howard Hawks’ I Was a Male War Bride, Jacques Becker’s Rendez-vous de juillet, Carol Reed’s The Third Man, Joseph Mankiewicz’s House of Strangers and Raoul Walsh’s White Heat. The films that I love are George Cukor’s Adam’s Rib, Robert Wise’s The Set-Up and Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night. Finally, the three films that would most challenge for my top pick are Robert Siodmak’s Criss Cross, Yasujirô Ozu’s Late Spring and William Wyler’s The Heiress.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.