Mon Oncle (1958)

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Released 19-Nov-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Short Film-L'ecole des Facteurs
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Playtime, Les Vacances de M.Hulot
Trailer-The Leopard, La Strada, The Battle Of Algiers
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 110:02 (Case: 116)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (74:47) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jacques Tati
Studio
Distributor
Panoramic Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Jacques Tati
Jean-Pierre Zola
Adrienne Servantie
Lucien Frégis
Betty Schneider
Jean-François Martial
Dominique Marie
Yvonne Arnaud
Adelaide Danieli
Alain Bécourt
Régis Fontenay
Claude Badolle
Max Martel
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Franck Barcellini
Alain Romans


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    M. Hulot (Jacques Tati) lives in an apartment on the top floor of an old building, with a maze-like stairway which needs to be traversed in order to gain access to his front door. His simple pleasures are listening to a bird singing, talking to the street sweeper who always has a pile of garbage but never seems to sweep, and spending time with his nephew. His sister is married to M. Arpel, owner of a plastics factory. The Arpels live in the sort of home they might have built from advertisements in 1950s magazines: all steel grey and blue, with a perfectly laid out garden, Cubist furniture and buttons to operate everything from the front gate and fountain to the cupboard doors. Mme Arpel wants to find her brother a job, but Hulot is not even qualified to sit for an interview.

    This is the foundation for a lot of humour and social observation, with the clumsy Hulot the hero but absent from the screen much of the time. It's all very French and very droll, and Tati's films are quite unlike those of anyone else.

    If you have never seen a Tati comedy before, this film may initially be baffling or even boring. Rather than using simple skits or verbal comedy (there is very little dialogue in this film, and Hulot barely speaks at all), Tati's way is to slowly build humour out of simple incidents through a succession of often elaborate gags. The same gag may be used several times in different ways throughout the film, such as the boys' whistling game. The characters are sharply observed but as if by a spectator at a distance. There are few mid-range shots and almost no close-ups. This is the sort of approach that works best with an audience and on a big screen, so watching it at home may not be the most desirable way to experience Tati's unique humour. I first saw this film on television, and it wasn't until I saw it in the cinema that I could see what the fuss was all about. Having said that it still is quite funny on the small screen, if you know what to expect.

    Tati started out in the 1920s as a professional rugby player, but soon found his sense of humour leading him to a career in the music halls and as a supporting player in films. After the war he started making his own films, with Jour de Fete and M. Hulot's Holiday bringing him to international attention. Mon Oncle received the Best Foreign Film Oscar for 1959. He would make only a handful of films, each coming after an increasingly longer gap.

    The AV Channel have released a box set of the four major Tati comedies (Playtime is the fourth), all of which are available separately as well.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. It was originally in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

    This is a sharp transfer. In fact, it was a lot sharper than I expected it to be. There is plenty of fine detail visible, and the transfer looks crystal clear. Contrast levels are excellent.

    The colour is superbly rendered and looks absolutely right, just as you would expect a late 1950s French film to look. It has the look of magazine photography of the era. For example, the steel grey and blue home of the Arpels looks very natural. Bright colours are vivid and clean. Blacks are solid without any visible low level noise.

    Unfortunately, the transfer is marred by frequent aliasing. It occurs throughout the movie and gets very distracting after a while.

    There are many film artefacts but these are of the tiny white speck variety, so they are not distracting. Otherwise, this is a very clean transfer.

    The optional English subtitles are in a yellow font, and are quite clear and readable. They do, however, have some Americanisms and US spelling. These are not frequent and therefore less irritating than they might have been.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change at 74:47. It is perfectly placed during a fade to black.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track, which is French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The audio is very good for a 1950s film, though the frequency range is limited. There is no audible hiss or distortion that I could detect. However, it does sound slightly thin at higher frequencies.

    The music is an integral part of the film, given the small amount of dialogue. The excellent score is by Franck Barcellini and Alain Romans, and consists of a lot of French-sounding music, complete with accordion. It ranges from jolly to wistful, and fits the film perfectly, especially the memorable theme music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    Some music from the superb score is heard while the static main menu is displayed.

Short - L'école des facteurs (15:05)

    The School For Postmen is Tati's first solo effort as director, in which he plays a newly graduated postman who is sent off on his first delivery run with hilarious results. The quality of the black and white print material used is not the best. This is an amusing short, however, and an appropriate extra for this release.

Theatrical Trailer (1:02)

    A slightly aged-looking original French trailer for the film.

Trailer-Playtime, Les Vacances de M.Hulot (4:28)

    Original French trailers for two of the other Tati releases.

Trailer-The Leopard, La Strada, The Battle Of Algiers (:40)

    An Italian trailer for the reissue of The Leopard, which is in letterboxed format, plus 16x9 enhanced trailers for the other films. La Strada has distorted sound and some video tracking distortion at the bottom of the screen.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this film comes from Criterion. The Region 1 also includes the same short, plus a video introduction to the film by Monty Python's Terry Jones. There is also an essay in the DVD insert. As far as I can tell, the print quality appears to be about the same as the Region 4, but none of the reviews I read mention the aliasing issues.

    The film has also been released by the BFI in the UK (Region 2). It appears to have similar specifications to the Region 4, but without the short film. The same appears to be the case for the French Region 2 release, but it does not appear to have English subtitles.

    There is a Swedish Region 2 release, which also includes the Tati short Soigne ton gauche, but there are no English subtitles. The Italian release has just French and Italian audio tracks, and appears to have no subtitles whatsoever.

    Given that AV Channel seem to license a lot of their transfers from overseas releases, I would not be surprised if the Region 4 release was taken from the BFI or Criterion material.

Summary

    A famous French comedy which stands up well today.

    An excellent transfer marred only by aliasing artefacts.

    The sole extra of note is an amusing short.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, December 17, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Tati bio - John
Source material - flixyflox
R1 differences - penguin (there is no bio)
aliasing - flixyflox