Manifesto of a post-modern Chaplin

Review of Mon oncle / My Uncle (1958)

Review of Mon oncle / My Uncle (1958) movie, by Stefan Stenudd


Jacques Tati needs a statue in the movie history hall of fame. He will have it, eventually. As an actor, he created Monsieur Hulot, a sort of post-modern Chaplin, walking through the world as estranged and yet delighted, as a middle-aged ET.



       As a director, he did about the same thing, but added a visual brilliance, a classical sense for the absurd, and a lot of poetry.

       Mon oncle, My uncle, is pretty much the manifesto of his artistic raison d'etre. The uncle, Monsieur Hulot, with his timeless, almost zen-like attitude to life, is contrasted by the successful bourgeoisie family, trying so hard to shine. What happens in the movie, is simply the little everyday absurdities rising out of this meeting of contradictions.

       Tati makes fun of everyone, but in such a gentle and loving way, no one gets hurt. He is truly enjoying himself, when observing the little madnesses of modern man. There is no call for anyone getting really angry at anyone else.

       Still, there are statements, and they are provoking if pondered. Tati probably succeeded in balancing the 1950's unreserved delight in consumer gluttony, with a bit of a taoist reconsideration as to the significance of it all. Without Tati and his movies, it is quite likely that we would have taken much longer in glimpsing the futility of earthly possessions, and that which has for the last half-century been called progress.

       And contrary to many other movies of up to the same age, Mon oncle carries the years with just as straight a posture as the one of Monsieur Hulot. They should show this movie in the schools, so that all kids get to see it and reflect.

Stefan Stenudd
9 January 2003




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