Tourette de France Review
You can always tell the cut of a documentary's jib by its title and by the reputation of the man or woman hired to provide a voiceover for it, not to mention the channel showing it. A Piss-Up In A Brewery would be Sky One taking a group of incontinent men to the home of Boddington's to discover what might entail, New Balls Please would see Channel 4 following a tennis player as he search for a cure for testicular cancer while the Adult Channel's Super Fuzz Big Muff would feature a group of hirsute women with large vaginas looking for men. And Keith Allen, rather than a Hannah Gordon or John Nettles, would be at home narrating them all.
Tourette De France - I suspect the title came long before anything else - has Keith Allen follow a group of Tourette's sufferers led by John Davidson (from QED's famous John's Not Mad) on a trip to France. Wearing its Summer Holiday influence loud and proud by having its subjects travel to Paris in a bright red Routemaster bus - "FUCK! and laughter on our COCK! summer holiday", sings Cliff Richard at one point - but showing some notion of scientific interest, it takes the children to the hospital where George Gilles de la Tourette first studied the condition (Salpêtrière). However, with the bus having broken down even before leaving London, John Davidson shouting, "Bomb!" as he walks around Parliament and the police taking an interest in the children, Tourette De France gets off to a poor start long before anyone gets to learn any French swear words. Of course, had Allen ever actually watched Summer Holiday, he might have known that a Routemaster is far from being an ideal way to travel through France and that not only do they have a tendency to break down and to roll backwards but, on the rare occasion it's moving, a bus is very, very, very slowly indeed.
Of course, given how long he's spending with the children on the bus, Keith Allen, who stars as well as narrates, gets to know them well. In this, he does well to get the children to explain their condition. One by one, he quietly interviews each child and asks them to explain how Tourette's Syndrome has affected them, asking them how difficult they find school and other social situations. John Davidson, doubtless from being in the public eye for so long and from now working as a support leader, is very understanding of the condition and takes everything in his stride. Allen, however, appears to take some advantage of the condition for comedic effect, conversing with John but no doubt having half a thought on what might happen next. Outside Notre Dame Cathedral and with a heavy police presence, Allen mentions terrorism to John who genuinely can't help himself shout out, "BOMB!" and "BIN LADEN!"
There is certainly some sadness in this, particularly as one hears from the children how they feel failures in school from being excluded from classes by their teachers and are laughed at as they shout, "CUNT!" in class but also some pride in the children on hearing how they came off their medication just to feel themselves again. John, in particular, is very able to express himself but at only a little over three-quarters of an hour, there's not enough time in Tourette De France to really understand either the condition or those who suffer from it, other than, as is surely Keith Allen's intention, it can be very funny. However, whether that's merely playing into an attention-grabbing Channel 4 documentary, if indeed there is any other kind, or actually revealing something of the disorder, I'll leave up to you. Tellingly, it shows Keith Allen only reading a set of notes on Tourette's as he goes to meet John Davidson in London. Any service it does to John, the children who accompany him on this trip or their families and carers seems to be largely incidental to the obvious pleasure that Keith Allen gets from hearing a lot of swearing.
Originally showing on Channel 4, Tourette De France has been transferred onto DVD in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and generally looks as good as any other Channel 4 documentary on DVD. That means, in essence, it's not particularly sharp, the picture doesn't look any better than anything else shot professionally on DVD although, coming from a video recording, there isn't any actual damage to the source material. The DD2.0 isn't any better than it was on its original showing on Channel 4 but, then again, it's no worse either, leaving this a DVD experience that will be sufficient for anyone who considers themselves content with television shows arriving on DVD almost untouched. Finally, there are no subtitles.
With the main feature being only a little over forty-five minutes, there's plenty of space on this DVD for bonus features, which Fabulous Films have provided. There's twenty-four Additional Scenes, each one of which lasts for somewhere between three and five minutes, which leaves two hours (or thereabouts) of extra material. However, in watching them all, most of what's here is further interviews, extended versions of scenes already in the documentary or longer cuts of John Davidson walking about the streets of Paris. There are some insightful interviews with John but, being honest, most of what's here is simply more Tourette's.
The rest of the bonus material includes two Trailers, being John's Not Mad (2m02s) and Little Lady Fauntleroy (1m23s, the Keith Allen-narrated documentary on James, now Lauren, Harries). There is also a Stills Gallery (2m19s) to the tune of Summer Holiday and an information sheet for Tourette Scotland.