The Wellington Film Society’s program resumes – following the world’s oldest existing feature-length animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed we move to the world of Jacques Tati and the first of his colour films, Mon Oncle.
The film centres on the socially awkward yet lovable character of Monsieur Hulot and his quixotic struggle with post-war France’s infatuation with modern architecture, mechanical efficiency and consumerism. As with most Tati films, Mon Oncle is largely a visual comedy; colour and lighting are employed to help tell the story. The dialogue in Mon Oncle is barely audible, and largely subordinated to the role of a sound effect. The drifting noises of heated arguments and idle banter complement other sounds and the physical movements of the characters, intensifying comedic effect.
Tati’s Mon Oncle very much reminds of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic Modern Times. Like the Tramp, Tati’s character is an outsider trying to be normal in a world where very little is. In the ultra-modern and ultra-clean Villa Arpel, for instance, Hulot looks like a lab rat whose behaviour is carefully monitored by the camera. His minor failures and successes could be quite amusing – funny is not the right term to describe them – but also notably disturbing.