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Tourette De France
featuring: Keith Allen, John Davidson

directors: Keith Allen, Ned Parker

60 minutes (E) 2006
Fabulous DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
The arrival of this cheerful Channel 4 documentary on DVD will surprise more than a few given that the documentary did not make that much of a stir when it hit our screens in January 2007. Stripped of its ad breaks and with some largely superfluous 'extended scenes' as DVD extras, this product of the production company owned by TV firebrand turned piss-poor TV critic Victor Lewis-Smith is ultimately still nothing more than a mildly entertaining and borderline-exploitative TV documentary.

With the possible exception of the guy who won Big Brother, the country's most famous Tourette's sufferer is John Davidson. In 1989, Davidson was the focus of the QED documentary John's Not Mad, a documentary so iconic that many people will swear blind that they have seen it even though they manifestly did not. Eighteen years later and Davidson is now working with Tourette's Scotland, a support group that organises holidays for teenaged Tourette's sufferers. Which is where we come in. Tourette De France puts Davidson and his teenaged charges on a red double-decker bus with Keith Allen the comedian and actor who is nowadays better known for being the father of Lilly Allen and a truly world class brown nose to the British art community.

The documentary's format is simple; Allen accompanies Davidson and the kids from London to Paris where they attend an evidently exceedingly boring talk at the Salpetriere hospital where the condition was first discovered. While the group amble across Britain and France, Allen interviews Davidson and a few of the kids in order to get their views and experiences of being a Tourette's sufferer. Obviously this gives the documentary a tone that is far removed from the factual and almost apologetic tone of the original QED documentary. In fact, Tourette De France comes dangerously close to playing the Tourette's sufferers for laughs as Allen reacts with laughter to every tic and the producers flash up 'nigger!' and 'cunt!' on screen in case you misunderstood what the kids were shouting.

Indeed, the jovial tone of the programme would be impossible to bear were it not for Davidson's evidently excellent sense of humour about his condition. In fact, all the kids seem to have learned to see the funny side of their sometimes perfectly aimed outbursts making us feel a little better about laughing when the group's deeply religious Ghanaian bus driver tries to reach out to Davidson by talking about undiagnosed African Tourette's sufferers he has known only for Davidson to respond by shouting "Paedo nigger!" at him.

Despite being undeniably funny at times and largely dependent upon the likeable personalities of Davidson and Allen, I can't help but feel that this documentary is more about entertainment than educating the public, placing this programme firmly in the When Strippers Attack or Fuck Off, I'm Fat mould of modern documentary making rather than the intelligent, timeless and worthy mould of the original John's Not Mad. Indeed, because the programme relies so heavily on the sufferer's experiences of their own condition it sends out entirely contradictory messages about Tourette's and even goes so far as to suggest that Tourette's sufferers are probably better off without taking their medication.

Lacking substance, depth and length (the documentary is still only an hour long) it's difficult to see this DVD as something that is worth owning. It's only real strength is ultimately people shouting obscenities in a humorous manner and I find it difficult to believe that it would stand up to repeat viewings as a result. Worth watching but only just...
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