Big day in Sainte-Sévère

Sainte-Sévère © T. Joly
Towards the South of the Berry region is the place where Jacques Tati shot “Jour de Fête”. A brand new museum unveils how this famous film was conceived and behind the scene stories of the shooting. This peaceful village scattered with medieval buildings is also worth a walk.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
315 km from Paris on autoroutes A6a, A10, A71 and A20 till Châteauroux then on D 920 and D943 till Sainte-Sévère.
- By train
Teoz train from Paris Austerlitz to Châteauroux. Journey takes approximately 2 hours.
Bus from Châteaurox to La Châtre, 15 km away from Sainte-Sévère.
Getting around
It is better to have a car.
- Hotel
Domaine des Dryades in Pouligny-Notre-Dame
Le Lion d’Argent in La Châtre
- Bed and breakfast
La Ferme des Vacances in Vigoulant
Le Moulin de Barre in Vigoulant
Logis de la Chêneraie in Sazeray
- Gîtes
Le Chagnat, Mme Binet, in Sazeray
Le Puy, Mme Butin, in Sazeray
Les Dryades in Pouligny-Notre-Dame
Relais de la Chaume Blanche in Pouligny-Notre-Dame
Le Lion d’Argent in La Châtre
Auberge à l’Escargot in La Châtre
- Indre Tourist Office
Tel : 0254073636,
- Sainte-Sévère Tourist Office
23 avenue d’Auvergne, 36150 Sainte-Sévère
Maison de Jour de Fête
Place du Marché, 36150 Sainte-Sévère
- Opening days
Every day except Sunday morning from April 4th to September 30th, on weekends, on bank holidays and during school holidays the rest of the year.
- Opening hours
From 10 am till 7 pm in July and August, from 10.30 am till 12.30 pm and from 2.30 pm till 6.30 pm in June and September, from 2.30 pm till 7.30 on bank holidays, from 2.30 pm till 6.30 pm the rest of the year.
- Entrance fees
Adults : 7,50 €. Children 12 - 17 years old : 6,50 €. Children 6 - 11 years old : 5,50 €.
- Information
Tel : 0254302178
If you are a movie fan you might have heard of Sainte-Sévère. That’s indeed in this village of the South of the Indre department that the filmmaker Jacques Tati shot his first feature film in 1947 : Jour de Fête (The Big Day). A choice linked to the fact he hid in the vicinity during the WW II to escape the Obligatory Work Service in Germany.

Jacques Tati © T.Joly
 Tourists from all over the world
Now a classic of the French cinema, this movie depicts the preparations of a town fair and its course through the adventures of a postman. Trained as a mime, Tati performs this character who, after having viewed a documentary on the efficiency of the US postal service, decides to modernize and speed up the delivery of the mail.
A work that made him a celebrity and that allowed him to later direct “Les Vacances de Mr Hulot” and “Mon Oncle” (My Uncle), which won the 1959 Best Foreign Film Oscar.
Of course, the success of Jour de Fête has put Sainte-Sévère on the tourist map and every year people come from all over the world to discover the film shooting spots, in particular the medieval square where was held the funfair and that almost didn’t change since 1947. Since April 4th these visitors find in addition a museum named “Maison de Jour de Fête” devoted to the film shooting and the contribution of the local population. Indeed Sainte-Sévère was not only the setting of the film.

Maison Jour de Fête © T.Joly
 A special relationship
Almost all the inhabitants played in as extras and were its anonymous heroes. “During four months it was almost like an every day celebration. Tati’s assistants came with a jeep or a motorcycle to pick up us at school or at the catechism when they needed us to shoot a scene. They gave us sweets. But, above all, we discovered the cinema with them while before we knew it only through some screenings done by peddlers”, remember, still fascinated, Gisèle Lamy, Jean Renaud et Jean Claude Laruelle, 15, 7 and 5 years old at that time. They also recall the kindness of Tati and his team. Thus a special relationship developed between the filmmaker and the population of Sainte-Sévère and it was transmitted from generation to generation. The village celebrated with great pomp several anniversaries of the film shooting, in particular the 60th, in 2007, that was marked by animations, exhibitions, debates and screenings. Tati came back there several times and in 1976 his daughter, Sophie Tatischeff, shoot there a short film entitled “Dégustation Maison”.

Maison Jour de Fête © Fauconnier
 Scenography inspired by the film
Combining animated setting, special effects, 3D digital movie, interviews and film strips, the Maison de Jour de Fête has been set up in the former barn on the wall of which Tati - in 1949 - screened his work to the inhabitants who had welcomed him like a head of State. Inside, the scenography is inspired by the film. The entrance hall and the souvenir shop take up a replica of the hero’s post office and four phones allow listening excerpts of the dialog. As to the other two rooms, one aims to be an imitation of the marquee of the travelling cinema and boasts a model of Sainte Sévère’s main square on one side, the other features a film studio where is recreated the Café Bondu where all the characters used to have a drink. In the first one a few news from that era are screened. Then, a film made up of rushes discarded during the editing, 3D pictures and especially created fiction sequences unveils the shooting conditions, behind the scene stories, anecdotes and few technical details.

Sainte-Sévère © T.Joly
 Authentic villages
Thus one learns that the film was shot both in colour and in black and white and that there were only six professional actors, and each had to play several characters, and so on. In the second room the film on display evokes scenes shot in the Café and some of the film special effects. All around it takes about 60 minutes to complete the visit. Informative, educational and touching, the content is likely to please the film fans as well as adults and children who never saw it. So far comments are only in French but from September an audio guide in English will be available.
In addition the Tourist Office distributes maps of Sainte-Sévère marked with short walking itineraries leading to the spots where the main scenes where shot. That’s the opportunity to discover also the historical heritage of this village that stood on a strategic position at the Middle Age.

Château Sainte-Sévère © T.Joly
 Bike rides
Du Guesclin won there a decisive battle against the English towards the end of the Hundred Years’ War and the French marshal Jean de Brosse, a close friend of Joan of Ark, owned there a castle of which only remains a ruined tower. At its feet stands a nice 18th century castle where George Sand set her novel “Mauprat”. But the most beautiful architectural complex is the square immortalized by the film where are standing a 15th century fortified gate, a Renaissance Calvary and a 17th century wooden covered market still used every Wednesday morning. For the sportsmen there are also bicycles available for rent. They come with road books giving details about five routes 11 to 24 km long following roads and paths lined with hedges. A typical scenery of South Berry where hedged farmland still prevails. Like in 1947 when Tati shot harvest and bicycle race scenes in places shown on the road books.

April 05, 2009
Thierry Joly