Mon Oncle The Criterion Collection
MON ONCLE (My Uncle) is one, indeed, the most hilarious French films that has been made. Jacques Tati shows film viewers post-war France, and its progression towards a prosperous future, which involved the nuclear family and modernization. Once again, Tati plays the bumbling Chaplinesque figure, Monsieur Hulot, who tends to get himself in a little mischief. For this installment, Hulot is at odds with his brother-in-law, Charles Arpel (Jean-Pierre Zola II) over his nephew, Gerard (Alain Becourt). Madame Arpel (Adrienne Servantie), his sister, has no qualms about her brother, but receives the gripes from Charles. It appears that Hulot spends too much time with Gerard, and may be a bad influence on the boy. Charles attempts to remedy the problem by hiring Hulot at his plastic company, and later promoting him to another position away from Gerard.
The Arpels live in the new world with all its modernist features and conveniences of a modern home of the late 1950s. Their lives are a string of daily routine -- straight and narrow environment that is meticulously organized and sanitized. Indeed, the furniture they sit and eat on resembles something that may have been owned by Ken and Barbie. The modern French landscape looks no different than their US counterparts, an automatic garage door and everyone drives and own a colorful '57-'58 Chevy (pink and green). The most obnoxious and annoying object in the film is the fish water fountain that spits out blue water that Madame Arpel turns on only when guests come by.
On the other hand, Hulot's world is the old world. He rides a motorized bicycle and lives in the familiar quaint French landscape with cobblestone streets, horse-carriage carts, and open food markets. Hulot is the friendly and considerate individual who sees the world around him, but has not quite been in-synch with the present.
The music in the film is quite significant when differentiating the two worlds. Hulot's world rings with bells and jingles with a French feel of a sleepy town, while the Arpel's world is fast-paced and on the go-go, and rocks and rolls with sounds from the west.
As an added bonus, the DVD includes the 1947 15 minute short film, L'ecole des facteurs (School For Postmen), which posseses a Buster Keaton influence in most of the scenes, especially the one where Tati passes a group of bicyclists.
Overall, MON ONCLE is a comedic film that will delight anyone. Indeed, the film has a Jerry Lewis feel of "The Bellboy" and "The Ladies' Man". If you want a laugh a minute, this film will deliver the goods.