Mon Oncle has a concerning amount of narrative. Way too much of the film is about Jean-Pierre Zola and Adrienne Servantie’s bourgeois ultra-modern couple fretting over their son’s affection for his uncle, played by writer-director Tati.
Tati’s protagonist does not live in the automated home of Zola and Servantie, but in a quainter, more traditional part of the city. There are these lovely sequences–Suzanne Baron’s editing and Jean Bourgoin’s photography are magnificent–with a pack of dogs running between new and old. It’s one of Tati’s best repetitions in the film.
The story takes place over a few days (or at least gives that impression). Over that time, Zola gets so fed up with Tati, things just have to change. Except all of these exasperating situations are contrived, whether it’s Zola trying to get Tati a job multiple times or Servantie trying to set him up with a woman. The nephew, played by Alain Bécourt, follows Tati around but they don’t have a relationship. The film’s best relationship is probably Tati and his young neighbor, Betty Schneider. She’s becoming a young woman (and does by the end of the film, which makes no sense since it takes place over a few days) and their relationship is adorable.
Uncle goes on and on, with Tati filling the lackluster second half with lots of somewhat cheap gags. He never uses Henri Schmitt’s sets to full potential.
The first half’s good, but when it needs to progress, it flops.
Produced and directed by Jacques Tati; screenplay by Tati, based on a story by Tati, Jacques Lagrange and Jean L’Hôte; director of photography, Jean Bourgeon; edited by Suzanne Baron; music by Franck Barcellini and Alains Romans; production designer, Henri Schmitt; released by Gaumont.
Starring Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot), Jean-Pierre Zola (Charles Arpel), Adrienne Servantie (Madame Arpel), Alain Bécourt (Gerard Arpel), Lucien Frégis (Monsieur Pichard), Betty Schneider (Betty, Landlord’s Daughter), Jean-François Martial (Walter), Dominique Marie (Neighbor), Yvonne Arnaud (Georgette) and Adelaide Danieli (Madame Pichard).