Mon Oncle (1958)

Mon Oncle (1958)

“It’s always his uncle! Not a good example in the least.”

Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) visits his materialistic sister (Adrienne Servantie), her well-to-do husband (Jean-Pierre Zola), and their son (Alain B├ęcourt) in their fancy new house, and tries working at Zola’s plastics factory — but their mechanized way of being doesn’t suit dreamy Hulot’s temperament.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • French Films
  • Jacques Tati Films

Response to Peary s Review:
As Peary writes, “The second appearance of Jacques Tati’s Mr. Hulot pits him against impersonal, anti-human modern technology”:

… though it’s “not on the level of Mr. Hulot’s Holiday because Hulot himself doesn’t provide enough of the humor.” He adds that “what is funny is the pretentious, ultra-modern house that belongs to Hulot’s sister’s family”:

… which is “full of the ugliest, most twisted, most uncomfortable-looking furniture imaginable — Hulot must turn the couch on its side in order to nap on it.”

He notes that “the kitchen is mechanized” and “there is a high gate around the yard so everyone must use the terrible-sounding buzzer to be let in” — but “as soon as the missus hears the buzzer, she pushes another button which causes her hideous fish-fountain to start spouting water high into the air,” which is “supposed to impress visitors.”

Peary asserts that the “picture’s highlight is a garden party where Hulot is just one of the ridiculous guests.”

He concludes his review by noting that “there is little dialogue throughout — Hulot says nothing — just many visual gags, which are a bit repetitious,” and “like most Tati films, this drags towards the end.” I agree. I’m not a Tati fan, and struggle to comprehend the appeal of his meticulous work. Film fanatics will likely be curious to check this one out given that it won an Oscar as Best Foreign Film of the Year (and is seen by some as Tati’s masterpiece), but I don’t consider it must-see.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography and sets

Must See?
No, though of course purists will disagree.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Mon Oncle (1958)

  1. I am a fan and do consider all of his Hulot films (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, My Uncle, Playtime, Traffic) to be must see for FFs. Hugely influential on 20th century comedy (the Pink Panther films, The Party amongst many others).

    They’re essentially about the older generation coming to terms with the modern world, especially the second third and fourth entries in the series.

    My Uncle is particularly noteworthy in this regard in that it’s full of the modern, post WWII advancements and their encroachment on the more traditional way of life, with Hulot’s brother in law working in the plastics industry which must’ve been extremely cutting edge in the decade following the war.

    I just think that these films are charming rather than laugh out loud funny although they do have their moments. Both My Uncle and Playtime are perhaps a tad overlong, particularly the latter but Holiday and Traffic are perfect as they are.

    Surprisingly, all of the films are best seen on the biggest possible screens and in the highest resolution possible as there are details often buried at the edges or in the background. Playtime benefits particularly in this regard as it was shot in 70mm and designed very much as a big screen tableau with many scenes in which little things happen at the same time.

    Thinking on it, the only entry that is probably a must for newbies is the first, Holiday which is the shortest and most charming. Most people have experienced a seaside holiday in their lives and on that score it has dated very well being largely observational.

    My Uncle will also have some resonance methinks due to many families having that eccentric relative that no one quite understands.

    Ultimately, as with all films, to each their own.

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