English version of My Uncle

Tati Masterpiece Restored

July 19, 2005By Heidi EllisonFilm

Jacques Tati fans will be thrilled to know that the English-language version of the beloved French filmmaker’s 1958 Academy-Award-winning My Uncle (Mon Oncle) has been unearthed from the archives and lovingly restored to as close to its original condition as possible.

This is not a dubbed version: when making the movie, Tati shot each scene in both English and French. If anything, the film is even funnier to English speakers now, with the wealthy characters speaking in exaggeratedly stilted accents. In any case, words are not that important to a Tati film, where images, action and music set the scene and the mood. Long stretches of the film are wordless or, when there is conversation between the characters, it is often purposely incomprehensible. Tati, who plays Mr. Hulot, the uncle of the title, almost never speaks, relying on gestures and physical humor to portray his winning character.

Those who have never seen the film are to be envied as they discover the delights of Tati’s gentle satire of modern life, which is depicted as arid, ridiculous and dehumanizing in comparison to the messy, convivial old-fashioned ways. Tati mocks modernity not only visually (although his modern world actually looks beautiful to us) but also through sound, making sure we hear all the buzzing, beeping, whining, clicking and clacking of futuristic gadgets and machinery.

The pace of the film is leisurely, the colors magnificent, the humor gentle and the wonderful soundtrack uplifting. Jacques Tati had a way of looking at the world that was all his own. After watching one of his films, you may believe that everything will be all right after all.


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