We always hold it against the French that they love Jerry Lewis -- it's a valid complaint -- but their taste in homegrown screen comedians is light years better than their taste in imports, and their favorite there has always been Jacques Tati. In his best movies, Tati played a character named Monsieur Hulot, an awkward, likable bachelor invariably attired in a sporty hat and trenchcoat, who clenched a pipe in his teeth at all times and took an interest in anyone or anything that passed his way. For Tati, Hulot embodied all that was warm and human in his homeland: he frequented the kind of small café that Paris is famous for, bought food from vegetable carts, lived in a Mansard-roofed walk-up, and knew all his neighbors and all his neighbors' pets. In Hulot's France friendly dogs play the day away in packs, laundry hangs from balconies, and the girl downstairs has a taste for sweets.
But in 1958 there was another kind of France wending its way into the Old World, and in Mon Oncle ("my uncle") Hulot's young nephew lives there. Attained by crossing over a broken down fence, this French neighborhood is ultra-modern and its architecture is automated and inhumanly chic. The plot of Mon Oncle, almost in its entirety, is that the young nephew prefers his eccentric uncle's company to that of his mother, who makes a frantic practice of keeping up with the Joneses, or his father, who works (where else?) in a plastics plant. But, as with all Tati, the jokes are in the details and not in the story.
Continue reading: Mon Oncle Review