Another entry into the very talented work found within the filmography of director Jacques Tati, Mon Oncle is arguably the peak of his critical and commercial efforts. The two come hand in hand here, following the adventures of the bumbling Monsieur Hulot once more, this time set in the colliding worlds of suburban and city life, the contrasts between the two feeling more and more obvious to our seemingly tired Hulot, who traverses back and forth between the two. The abetting from his sister and her well to do family for him to grasp the nettle and integrate with the forthcoming modernity crafts a nice ballast for Hulot, who spends much of Mon Oncle bumbling his way through the new experiences to be found in his sister and nephew’s lifestyle.
Once more, the strengths of Tati’s work are prevalent. It’s nice to see consistency that’s both enjoyable but also endearing. The charms of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday’s sight gags and Playtimes musings on technology bleed into one another exceptionally well, but not with a wholly charming competence. It misses the mark a handful of times, the laughter in a shorter supply than the previous instalment, and its message is a rather slapdash affair, not feeling as consistent as the man out of place in Playtime. Instead, we receive a rather fumbled pairing between the two, but even with a somewhat lacking polish, it’s a testament to the talent of Tati that Mon Oncle still comes together as a formidable piece that rivals many of its contemporaries.
With Tati’s directing style finding its footing very early on, it’s nice to see that Mon Oncle sticks with the style found with the previous and future instalments. It creates a lovely, homely feeling, a comfortable and cosy narrative that depends on the incredible efforts of Tati as both a performer and director. He brings a bit more to the character of Hulot, his charming nature and rather uneventful life collides with a larger than life segment, one that feels both believable but also wholly fabricated and out of the ordinary. It’s these out of the ordinary settings, designs and themes that make for such a comfortable, engaging watch.
Mon Oncle is an enjoyable time, though, an integral stepping stone on the way toward Tati’s masterpiece. It features a prominent step in the right direction, a well-rounded film that brings a balance between its comedy and its themes. It just doesn’t have enough of either to really knock it out of the park, instead it fumbles with some the docile living of suburban lifestyle, the film itself acclimatising to this meandering component far too quickly. It’s a shame that the film is so invested in its thematic display, it turns a film critical of suburban living into a complacent one that never seeks to lash out at the changes to the standard of living found within this period of life in France.