Mon Oncle Antoine (The Criterion Collection)
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The film meanders amiably along, capturing in unhurried pace the life of rural 1940's Quebec, in this case an abestos mining town. The main characters are Benoit, an orphaned boy, the local undertaker Antoine and his assistant Fernand played by the director himself Claude Jutra.
Eventually the film reaches its big set-piece, a long, extended night sequence where Benoit and Antoine (covered in furs) must traverse the icy, snow covered landscape via sled to retrieve the body of a boy who has died at a farmhouse.
The director was hailed as the new savior of Canadian cinema at the time of release, but unfortunately never achieved the level of success later on that he did with this film. He mysteriously disappeared one winter and his body was discovered the following spring after the ice had thawed...a simple note attached, "My name is Claude Jutra".
A splice of life story set in Québec of the 1940s, starting with seemingly random glimpses of life in an asbestos mining town as seen thru the eyes of a teenage boy. Then, halfway, it assumes something like a plot (which I found engrossing) before ending at a scene that doesn't tie things up neatly. In other words, an art house film.
Since I grew in a small town, I immediately felt immersed in the small town setting despite the cultural differences. I liked the natural look of the cinematography, the location shooting, the sense of improvisation in certain scenes and the use of non-actors -- even in a couple lead roles. Altho most of the vital roles were turned over to some very good French Canadian actors -- including the director himself -- Claude Jutra.
Despite the political turmoil in Québec at the time of the filming, the political overtones were reduced to mere hints. That may have been a lucky thing cuz the film now has a timeless quality.
Here's a rare opportunity to experience something of the nearby mystery that is Québéc.
What I find surprising is that no one seems to have realized that the director, Claude Jutra, seems to have made this film into what would turn out to be a play-within-a-play, the larger play being his own life, since, as in this movie, Jutra's own body disappeared in the winter, to be recovered later (in 1986). Jutra's death was presumably a suicide. The disappearance of the body was foreshadowed in this film, and the exact mode of death was described in one of his other films. In other words, I believe that he choreographed his own death.
The film has some fascinating touches, such as Benoit's irreverent boyishness being characterized by his jumping across the tops of church pews. The irony of the Lord's name being taken in vain while putting up Christmas decorations is outstanding. There they are in what amounts to a Godless company town, handling the decorations: "Careful with the Virgin Mary. She's touchy." The question about the figurine Jesus, "Where is Jesus?" is obviously being asked in reference to their family, or their entire community or perhaps mankind as a whole. The answer, "Ask the Holy Ghost, he knows everything," is appropriately irreverent: even the priest was drinking on the job there, so no human could answer the question.
What I did when watching this for the first time was to play it with the dubbed English at the same time as displaying the subtitles. The difference in the translations is interesting. One can get a better understanding of what was intended by comparing the two translations.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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I have this romantic notion of relocating from the insanity of city life and retreat to the quiet slow paced eternally passive... Read more
A beautifully remastered print of this Canadian Classic. I had forgotten how much I loved this softly nuanced and truly well made film.Published 21 months ago by Elliot
Franchement, ce film est incroyable. Je n'ai aucun désir de décrire l'intrigue sauf pour dire qu'il vaut la peine de le voir. Read morePublished on January 1, 2014 by Michael Brown
This movie will have to be watched two or three times to get the full meaning. But it is telling; about life, death, lack of family communication, youth, manhood, womanhood, and... Read morePublished on September 2, 2013 by TRBear
After reading the other reviews, I was prepared for a heart-warming, coming of age movie. What I got was dark, slow, hard to follow and boring. Read morePublished on September 12, 2011 by RDRD
An interesting little film, focussing on a boy called Benoit and his uncle Antoine. The film shot with beautiful scnerario powered by decent performences by almost all the cast. Read morePublished on October 29, 2010 by Ankur Mukherjee
It is Film giving you to decide to do in some problems you Crossing for life.Published on August 2, 2009 by Ramonhuesoescamilla
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|How common are bootleg DVDs here?||
I bought a DVD that was supposedly "brand-new" and "factory-sealed" from an Amazon Marketplace seller and it's clearly a bootleg (pirated copy). The giveaway is that there are three major typos on the back cover! Words are misspelled and some letters that should be... Read More
Oct 4, 2010 by Harry Lin | See all 2 posts