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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • On-Screen: "Mon oncle Antoine," a 2007 documentary tracing the making and history of the film
  • Claude Jutra, an Unfinished Story, a 2002 documentary that attempts to unravel "the Jutra mystery," featuring interviews with Brault, Bernardo Bertolucci, actors GeneviŤve Bujold and Saul Rubinek. and actor-director Paule Baillargeon
  • A Chairy Tale, a 1957 experimental short codirected by Jutra and Norman McLaren
  • Theatrical trailer

Mon oncle Antoine


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Claude Jutra
Starring: Jean Duceppe, Olivette Thibault, Claude Jutra, Helene Loiselle, Lionel Villeneuve, Monique Mercure, Jacques Gagnon, Lyne Champagne
1971 | 104 Minutes | Licensor: National Film Board of Canada

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #438
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 8, 2008
Review Date: July 10, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

Claude Jutra's evocative portrait of a boy's coming of age in wintry 1940s rural Quebec has been consistently cited by critics and scholars as the greatest Canadian film of all time. Delicate, naturalistic, and tinged with a striking mix of nostalgia and menace, Mon oncle Antoine follows the everyday lives of both young Benoit, as he first encounters the twin terrors of sex and death, and his fellow villagers, living under the thumb of the local asbestos-mine owner. Set during one ominous Christmas, Mon oncle Antoine is a holiday film unlike any other, and an authentically detailed illustration of childhood's twilight.

Forum members rate this film 7.8/10

 

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PICTURE

Moving beyond Cronenberg, Criterion gets a little deeper into Canadian cinema presenting Mon Oncle Antoine in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on the first dual-layered disc of this two-disc set. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

My previous experience with the film is VHS and a full frame DVD I rented (which I think was the Image release.) I remember that DVD being a little shoddy in the image department. It shouldnít be a surprise that the Criterion edition presents a great transfer of the film. Itís sharp and crisp, and despite the rather muted colour scheme, colours look absolutely fantastic, with the odd sharp red and green coming onto screen. Skin tones look pretty good, though maybe a little on the yellow side (it seemed to vary so it may have had to do with the choice of lighting while filming.) White landscapes look very good, whites never blinding.

The print is in amazing shape, only the odd couple of specs throughout the film and some sequences are grainier than others. But overall it looks absolutely fantastic. I was quite thrilled with this transfer and was happy just to get that.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Included on the disc are two audio tracks, the original French Canadian track (there is a difference between French and Canadian French) and a dubbed English track, both in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono.

The French track sounds quite good. Dialogue is strong and intelligible, music sounds fantastic, and overall the track is in excellent shape. The English track is also in pretty good shape, though I thought music sounded a little harsher in sequences. The key problem with the track, like just about all dubbed tracks, is that itís obviously dubbed. The English voice actors hired donít really put much thought into their ďperformanceĒ and most of the time it comes off detached from the film. It also ruins a humourous little moment at the beginning of the film between a French Canadian and his English Canadian boss. So while both are good in terms of quality, the French track is the one to go with.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion puts a modest amount of supplements on this two-disc set, but theyíre all excellent.

The first disc only includes a trailer, presented in a full frame ratio. The rest of the supplements are on the second dual-layered DVD, giving me my fill of French and English Canadian accents, making me feel a little homesick.

The first supplement is a 2007 ďmaking-ofĒ from a program called ďOn Screen!Ē Iím not familiar with this series, though it looks to play on Bravo! Canada. The supplement has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is an excellent supplement on the making of the film, running a little over 47 minutes. It contains a brief bio of director Claude Jutra, touching on his early career, his struggle with Alzheimer's and his eventual suicide, but a good chunk of it covers the film, from its early inception (after rejecting a script by Clement Perron, Jutra listened to Perronís drunken stories about growing up in a small Quebec town,) to the actual financing, to the long road of it finally getting recognition. The documentary has interviews with various members of the crew, including locals from the town where the film was shot (locals were actually wary of the film) as well as friends, critics, and scholars. It was quite interesting to see the filmís on-the-fly feel was actually made in a somewhat on-the-fly fashion, some locals being randomly picked to fill smaller roles, and that there was some improv. I was also shocked to learn that Jacques Gagnon, the young actor who plays Benoit, was a hitch hiker that Jutra came across. Even more fascinating was the filmís slow roll out and discovery, thanks to the fact that the National Film Board of Canada had no idea how to distribute an actual film, usually only dealing with shorts and documentaries (an odd move, the film actually premiered in Stratford, Ontario with a French track and no subtitles. While Stratford may be known for its Shakespeare Festival, itís off the beaten path, not that close to a major city, so I can only assume it played to Stratford residents and a French film with no subtitles would not have played well.) The film was eventually discovered in Toronto by film critic Martin Knelman, who praised it, the film then going on to win 8 Genie Awards. It then was fairly successful critically in the States and internationally, but didnít become a huge success until it premiered on television courtesy of the CBC. The film has held up well, still being called the best film made in Canada, which participants of the documentary hope doesnít change (and with stuff like Going the Distance and Bon Cop, Bad Cop seeming to be the new norm for Canadian cinema I doubt they have much to worry about.) Excellent doc and well worth looking at.

The next feature is an 82-minute documentary on Claude Jutra, directed and narrated by Jutraís friend, Paule Baillargeon, called Claude Jutra: An Unfinished Life. While the documentary is presented in widescreen, it has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is a very thorough, well done documentary on the man moving from his childhood all the way through his life and filmography to his suicide. Interestingly his father had hoped his son would become a doctor, like him, but after a family member brought a projector to the house to show a movie Jutra instantly fell in love with the idea of filmmaking, getting a camera at age 16, experimenting with it, and then making his first short film at age 18. He would eventually go to medical school but never practiced, instead continuing on with his dream of becoming a filmmaker. His influences are mentioned, including Cocteauís Blood of a Poet and the French New Wave (Godard seeming to be a key influence.) Briefly mentioned in the ďmaking-ofĒ supplement was how Jutra and his cinematographer, Michel Brault pretended to work for the CBC and managed to get an interview with Fellini. Not only does Brault reminisce about this, but footage from the interview with Fellini and Giulietta Masina is also shown. Baillargeon gets into great detail about his films, spending the most time on his big independent feature (which got him deeply into debt) A tout prendre, though skimming on Mon Oncle Antoine. She also touches on his work that followed such as Kamouraska, which was a disaster despite having a lot going for it, and then his less than stellar work thereafter, which lead to him having to move from Quebec to Ontario to get work (disappointingly, to me, it doesnít get into his work on an episode of The Beachcombers. Darn.) Itís a very thorough documentary and gets interviews from various people who worked with him or knew him, including Genevieve Bujold, Saul Rubinek, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Excellent inclusion.

Closing off the disc supplements is a short film by Jutra, called A Chairy Tale. I was disappointed that Criterion wasnít able to get any of his other short films, but I was delighted to get this one, if more for nostalgic reasons. I remember catching this on television when I was much, much younger, and I havenít seen it since. From 1957 and running almost 10-minutes, this charming little film uses camera trickery and the music of Ravi Shankar to tell the tale of a man and his battle with a chair that refuses to let him sit on it. Itís a fun, energetic little piece that has also been beautifully restored for this release. Another pleasing inclusion on the disc.

And finally we get a 12-page booklet containing an essay Andre Loiselle, who gives an analysis of the film, and also offers some more information on Claude Jutra, though itís all been covered in the disc supplements. While technically there isnít much on here, I donít think I can imagine much else being included, other than maybe more of Jutraís short films. Itís a very thorough set of extras.

8/10

CLOSING

While I try not to state my feelings on the feature film included on the disc Iím reviewing, I do have to admit to being more than pleased to see this film finally get a strong DVD release. I was looking forward to this DVD and it managed to exceed my expectations. The transfer looks great and the supplements were very informative and interesting. While I may be a little biased, this is probably one of my favourite DVDs this year.


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