My Uncle; Mon Oncle

948. MY UNCLE (Mon Oncle) (1958-France). COLOR. Written, directed by, and starring JACQUES TATI. Jacques Tati never rushed into making a film. It took him 20 years to make five Of them, but everyone was worth the wait! Tati is the film comic who never forgets that he performs for the ear as well as the eyeÑ despite the fact that he never speaks! Tati plays the same character in all his films made since “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” (see catalogue #437). The character’s name is Hulot, he says nary a word, but merely by observing the passing scene speaks volumes. There’s a temptation to call Mr. Hulot “Chaplinesque”, but the similarities are only superficial. Where Chaplin is vulgar, Tati is charming. Where Chaplin would use slapstick, Tati is sophisticated. Where Chaplin would call for fast editing and frenetic activity, Tati uses deliberate pace and a slowly building situation. But, like Chaplin, Tati makes you laugh and cry at the same time. Like Chaplin, Tati lovingly used sound and music as if he regretted the passing Of the silents, but with a shrug, decided to make the best Of it.
“My Uncle” is about the jobless brother-in-law Of a wealthy Paris factory owner with no prospects for getting work. The factory owner and his wife and son live in an ultra-modern house, Mr. Hulot does not. So much for the plot. The important parts Of “My Uncle” are: the portrait Of Paris that can best be described as a love affair with the city; the people Of Paris who live in Mr. Hulot’s neighborhood and the interplay Of sound and music (note that when the sounds Of Paris stop, the music starts, they never are heard together). The smaller the action by Mr. Hurlot, the more important. The bird which sings in its cage when Mr. Hulot directs a ray Of sunlight at him with his windowpane, the little girl that Mr. Hulot passes in the street each day who suddenly becomes a woman, the fountain in the shape Of a fish, the street sweeper who always is on the verge Of using his broom, but never does, the plastic tubing from the factory with the strange bumps along its length, the game the street boys play as they cause passers-by to walk into street lamps, and much more. Jacques Tati’s meticulous writing, loving direction and superb characters add up to a comedy classic. Very French, very cinematic, and very, very funny. Highly recommended. Dubbed in English. 109 minutes. Comedy