on 25 January 2006
Golly, this is good! Tati takes M. Hulot from the seaside (M. Hulot's Holdiday', his earlier masterpiece) to the city,
where he's one of a troupe of highly-eccentric characters whose fantasies and foibles are explored in minute and hilarious fashion. Hulot (circa 1950s.),a descendant of Chaplin and Keaton, reincarnated recently as the absurd Mr. Bean.
There is no plot to speak of, rather a sequence of glimpses into the self-absorbed silliness of a businessman and his wife who inhabit a recently-assembled super-modern 'maison' complete with an endless supply of dysfunctional mod-cons. Much of the humour is sound-related. Everything buzzes and clacks. Everything is super-stylish and utterly useless. I took it as a satire on industrial civilisation, with utilitarianism displacing all that's natural.
A pack of stray dogs join in the fun, sniffing and pissing everywhere, as personal and fascinating as their human counterparts. The humour is wry and light. I regularly laughed out loud. I saw my own foibles (not to mention those of my friends and family) magnified in excruciating detail.
The depth of insight is extraordinary, the camera-work always perfect, and the boulevardian musical score entrancing and unforgettable.
This is a timeless masterpiece.
on 27 November 2004
I have grown up with this film, as my father loved it, and his father before, and have been waiting for it to be released on DVD for ages. In Mon Oncle Jaques Tati created a very funny film (in places), a very French film, but above all a film that to me is a statement about life itself. Sometimes the action can be slow, but sometimes life is slow, and you have to wait for the payoff. And when that payoff comes, in Mon Oncle it's amongst the best cinematic moments ever, such as Tati testing the coffee maker for bounciness in his brother's hi-tec 50's kitchen. I will always treasure my Grandad belly laughing at the young boys tricking passers by into the lamp post - this film is like a personal treasure for me, and if it may not have the speed and pace of modern comedies, it has a huge wit, and a feeling of timelessness that will make it a classic forever.
on 8 October 2005
Jacques Tati's "Mon Oncle" astonished me by its fresh attitude. I saw this film for the first time in 2001, yet it feels as if I'd known it much longer. I adore its backgrounds - that's why you need to watch it at least twice - once to grasp the idea what's in the foreground, twice to notice the background, ever-walking workers with sausage-like plastic tubes among others. It's as much a film as a painting. I watched it again a week ago - and, sadly, it's still funny in 2005, and the laugh is on us - we love electronic devices around, we cherish high-tech kitchens and offices, yet sometimes we can't find our own self.
on 12 June 2001
I studied this at University, and I am so glad to my tutors for introducing me to Tati. This is a comic masterpiece, taking in physical jokes, sight gags and digs at the class divide in 1950s France. Guffaw at Hulot's ineptitude at putting things away in a 'modern' kitchen! Bust a gut as the mother and father get each other trapped in the garage! Snigger at the comic snobbishness of the neighbours and the girl who wants to by Marilyn Monroe! Seriously, if you've seen Les Vacances de M. Hulot, you must check this out, as it's more of the same brilliantly timed comedy. I'm going to show it to my classes at school!
on 10 August 2008
In this classic movie from 1958, Tati plays his usual character Mr. Hulot. He lives in an old, rundown part of town, while her sister, married to the manager of a plastics factory, has a shiny futuristic house in the suburbs, with a lot of goofy gadgets. (Of course, what was presumed to be the future in the 50s wasn't always what it turned out to be, and that sort of retro futurism is fun). The movie has very little dialogue, a silent-movie like musical score, and a number of gags involving Hulot being utterly confused by the modern gadgets in her sister's house (though, to be fair, few of those gags are laugh-out-loud funny). Actually, what I found even more fascinating than the retro futurism in Mon Oncle, watching it now, is the look of the old part of town where Hulot lives (we see the France of the 20s and 30s, still existing in 1958, but soon to be razed down, as it has been seldom been shown on color film). And if Tati wanted to say that the old France was more humane than the new, ugly, futuristic France shown in the movie, well, he has my vote.
on 29 December 2009
Tati's third feature film is his first in colour, and of all his films it's the one which shows the greatest command of design, including costume design, lighting and composition. In the newly-restored BFI print it is gorgeous to look at, and in some ways his most deeply-felt. It is however not as full of laughs as either "M Hulot's Holiday" or "Jour de Fete".
The whole film is built on the twin axis of the Village and the Modernist House. The Village full of people, activity, bathed in golden light and full of rich deep yellows and browns; the House all bare, too big for the few people, in greys and ice-blues. Only Hulot, the boy (Alain Becourt) and the dog, Daki, can go freely between the two. The Arpels rattle round in their house, dominated by the gadgets and forced to jump from stone to stone along the tortuous paths in the garden.
There's not much of a plot: Madame Arpel is trying to pair her brother Hulot off with the next door neighbour; Monsieur Arpel is trying to get him a job. Always Hulot wrecks it, wrestling with alien technology, or just being innately clumsy. The satire, however, is gentle, and even the Modernists are seen as essentially good, if misguided people. There are some great set-pieces - the garden party, the piping factory - but mostly this is slow-burn character comedy, about the strange things ordinary people do in ordinary life, when viewed from a certain angle. Tati knows that timing is all for a gag to work, but he's prepared to take his time to build it.
The free spirits are the children and the dogs - one gang of each, leading parallel carefree lives. The dogs root through the dustbins, the kids play on the waste ground, full of practical jokes. This is what life is meant to be, Tati seems to be saying. And at the end, when there is a final reconciliation between work-obsessed father and lonely single child, it is through a variant on a practical joke which has been a running gag. This doesn't make it any less moving.
Some people get frustrated by the lack of punchlines to scenes, but personally I don't think this matters. Life doesn't have punchlines. And this is both comedy of life, and life-enhancing comedy, of a richness and depth rarely found in movies. So much is going on onscreen, so much attention is paid to detail, that this movie repays repeated viewings.
on 28 April 2008
This is another fine example of the art of visual comedy & you may need to watch it a couple of times to get all the nuances & background humour.
Unfortunately, it is probably 20 - 30 minutes too long & gets a little turgid at times but, on the whole, is a fine way to spend an evening.
It's not as immediately accessible as Hulot's Holiday but then again, that is the pinnacle of this art form.
Watching Jacques Tati, it is easy to see where the inspiration for Mr Bean et al came from.
on 3 October 2009
We saw a revived version of "Les Vacances de M. Hulot" and had forgotten how funny it was. I had never seen "Mon Oncle" Perhaps it isnt quite so good as Les Vacances but it is still a brilliant film.The inconsequential humour is splendid. There's no plot to speak of but it doesnt matter - and you dont need much if any French as it is mostly visual comedy.
on 20 October 2009
I first saw this film when I was about six years old and watching it again, many decades later, much of it comes back to me: the clicking of the high heels, the fountain, the little dogs, the futuristic architecture and the extraordinary quirkiness. It has lost none of its charm and is as entertaining, original and memorable as ever. A deserved classic.
on 20 October 2013
I ordered this film because I've seen it before - a long time ago and I love it. It's a wonderful story about the friendship between an uncle and his cousin. The uncle represents the 'good old times of France' (he lives in an old nostalgic 'quartier' in Paris) whereas the 9 year old cousin lives in a big modern house (representing the modernism of post war France).
They visit each other and even though their worlds totally different, they have a wonderful friendship. The differences are well worked out in music, sound, colours, setting.
Apart from that, it's a funny movie as well!