Mon Oncle (1958) and other beloveds

19 Jul

Mon-Oncle-5Mon Oncle (airing on TCM Sunday, July 21 at 8:00 p.m. as part of Bill Hader’s thrillingly well-curated Essentials, Jr.) is my favorite Tati film.

It’s not the best one – that’s clearly Play Time, an architecture only lessened by dancing about it, beyond saying that even the mention of it makes me want to stop typing, call in sick to my rehearsal and watch it; and even Les Vacances de M. Hulot is technically “better,” I suppose – but it remains my favorite.

Is it because I’m naturally avuncular in all things, and was long before the nieces and nephews came along? Is it because my not-so-secret ideal birthday gift would be a LEGO set of the Villa Arpel (and yard)? Is it because it’s a sweet, delicate painted eggshell of a comedy that bears up under as many viewings as you’re willing to give it, and yet isn’t a, you know, Black Turtleneck-y Art Film, despite the French subtitles (which, if you’re dealing with children watching this, you should know are almost entirely unnecessary)?

I think it’s because its so very, very funny, but not in a merely entertaining way, which is to say it asks you not to lean back and laugh passively but to lean forward and pay attention and smile broadly.

Mon onclemon-oncle2







I know a smile sounds like less than a laugh. It is not. Laughter is wonderful, but a Tati-bred smile is a smile that affects the rest of your week. The world around you becomes the film you just watched, and even its ugliness, its sharp-metal fish fountains and its traffic and its dirty streets and its dull jobs take on a beauty. So much knowledge and so much innocence hand in hand, distracting the Grown-Ups (different than adults) so they’ll walk into poles.

a-nous-la-liberteModern Times (1936)







Revel in the beauty of Mon Oncle, and when you’re done, enjoy the brilliant and entirely intertwined block that follows: Tati’s clear inspiration, Chaplin’s Modern Times at 10:00 p.m. and Chaplin’s clear inspiration, René Clair’s À Nous La Liberté at 2:00 a.m. (with Mickey starring Mabel Normand sneaking in at midnight and Clair’s Le Million closing things down at 3:45 a.m.) Seriously – when am I supposed to sleep?

2 Responses to “Mon Oncle (1958) and other beloveds”

  1. willmckinley July 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    This one is my favorite too.

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