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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Introduction by actor and comedian Terry Jones
  • My Uncle, director Jacques Tati's 1958 reedited, English-language version of the film
  • Once Upon a Time . . . "Mon oncle," an hour-long documentary from 2008 on the making of the film
  • Everything Is Beautiful, a three-part program from 2005 on the film's fashion, architecture, and furniture design
  • Everything's Connected, a 2013 visual essay by Tati expert Ste?phane Goudet comparing Mon oncle to the other Monsieur Hulot films
  • "Le Hasard de Jacques Tati," a 1977 French television episode featuring an interview with Tati about his dog, Hasard, and the canine stars of Mon oncle

Mon oncle

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jacques Tati
1958 | 116 Minutes | Licensor: Les Films de Mon Oncle

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $124.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #111
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: October 28, 2014
Review Date: November 4, 2014

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SYNOPSIS

Slapstick prevails again when Jacques Tati's eccentric, old- fashioned hero, Monsieur Hulot, is set loose in Villa Arpel, the geometric, oppressively ultramodern home of his brother-in-law, and in the antiseptic plastic hose factory where he gets a job. The second Hulot movie and Tati's first color film, Mon oncle is a supremely amusing satire of mechanized living and consumer society that earned the director the Academy Award for best foreign-language film.

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PICTURE

The third film in Criterionís new box set, The Complete Jacques Tati, Mon oncle is presented in its original aspect ratio of about 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. The high-definition transfer is delivered in 1080p/24hz.

It looks very similar to the presentation found on the BFI Blu-ray and I wouldnít be surprised if the same master was used. In comparison to the old Criterion DVD the colours do come off a bit darker and colder but Iím pretty sure this is the intended look, especially after going through all of the special features (plus the DVD can look a little blown out now). The transfer is also certainly far more stable in comparison to the DVD, delivery a consistently sharp and highly detailed picture with wonderful depth and clarity, while nicely rendering the filmís fine grain structure in the process.

The source has a few minor blemishes in places but thatís about it, the clean-up job being rather thorough. The image also doesnít present any noticeable artifacts, keeping a filmic quality to it.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The 1.0 PCM track serves the filmís unique sound design well. Dialogue is really just another sound effect in the film and can sometimes just fall into the back, but itís clear enough, as are the rest of the filmís sound effects, nicely over exaggerated at times. The track is clear of distortion and noise as well.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The previous DVD released by Criterion had very little on it, only a couple of features, but Criterion nicely upgrades the supplements, packing quite a bit of content onto here.

Carried over from the original DVD is an introduction by director, and former Monty Python member, Terry Jones. He expresses his initial disappointment with it but then suggests it has become his favourite and believes it may be because itís ďless charmingĒ and bleaker in the fact it takes place in a world where the character of Hulot doesnít belong (and the film suggests that Hulotís world will be gone at the end.) He talks a bit about the satire against ďstatusĒ and the modern world and of course breaks down gags he likes. Itís a shame he couldnít provide a commentary because he offers a great analysis of the film, though maybe him breaking down every gag in the film would be a bit much. The introduction runs about 5-minutes.

Criterion also includes Tatiís English version of the film, My Uncle, which Tati specifically made for English-speaking audiences since he apparently couldnít stand subtitles (they distracted from the visuals.) The BFI also includes this version on their Blu-ray release, and as I mentioned in the review for that disc this version is not simply just an English dub, but is rather a whole other version of the film. Not only is English spoken far more throughout the film (French still makes an appearance) but gags are edited or executed a little differently, and most of the signage or French text that appears in the original version has actually been replaced with English, meaning Tati shot the same sequences multiple times to cover the languages. Despite some of these differences the story is still the same, but the film runs 6-minutes shorter, and again I canít exactly say why.

With the BFI version I stated I would more than likely stick with the French version since itís the version Iím used to, but at least I felt like I had the option with that release. For many it will be easy to stick with the French version on this release because similar to what they did for the alternate versions of Jour de fÍte and M. Hulotís Holiday, My Uncle is not presented in high-definition: itís another upscale of a standard-definition transfer. Iím still not sure why they did this, especially since BFIís disc included a rather nice looking high-definition version, so obviously there is one available. But whatís worse is itís not even a decent upscale. The whole image is murky and soft, lacking much in definition. Though it may be interesting for many to view, itís a shame that Criterion doesnít see this version as a viable alternative, especially since Tati preferred his audiences to watch his films without subtitles. Really, what are you more than likely going to watch: the clean, filmic presentation of the French version or the soft, murky English version that looks like it came from a DVD circa 2001? Exactly.

Continuing on, Criterion includes another episode from the program A Film and its Era called Once Upon a TimeÖ Mon oncle. The program, which Criterion has grabbed material from for a couple of other releases, offers up a look at a particular filmís production, while also contextualizing it to the period it was filmed during and/or takes place in. Iíve been rather enjoying these and this one isnít any different. Through interviews with surviving friends, collaborators, and admirersówhich includes Pierre Etaix, Jean-Claude Carriere, David Lynch, and others, as well as archival interviews with Tati and Jacques Lagrangeówe get plenty of back story to the filmís production and a look at Tatiís style of humour and filmmaking. The segment also covers the hot political topics of the time and how they would have played into the development of the film, including Franceís housing projects. The program also gets various architects and designers to look at the house designs and discuss the influences and possible satire (one seems especially offended by the filmís architecture as he sees it as Tati making fun of peoplesí taste, somewhat missing the point that Tatiís aim was more at people who use these things to show off their ďstatusĒ). It runs 52-minutes and offers a great rundown on the film while nicely contextualizing it.

The next supplement is so far the most disappointing supplement in the set (though admittedly at the time of this writing Iím only through the features found up to Trafic), a collection of three featurettes grouped into one item called Everything is Beautiful. The segments are entitled ďLines, Signs, DesignsĒ (23-minutes), ďFashionĒ (20-minutes), and ďPlease Have a SeatĒ (9-minutes). They each look at a design element within the film, the first looking at the architecture, the second at the costumes, and the third at the furniture. Of the three I found the first the most interesting, as the filmmakers have various architects talk about the building designs found in the film, covering the possible influences, the satirical elements, possible political statements, and so on. The second segment does something similar, covering the design of the costumes and how they represent their characters, while the third is a somewhat goofy look at the furniture design. Not completely terrible but I donít think I would have missed them if they werenít included, especially since the architect segment proved the most fascinating yet this same angle was covered in the previous feature.

We then get another visual essay by Stťphane Goudet, this one running about 51-minutes and entitled Everythingís Connected. On each of the discs so far Goudet uses the respective film to go over a certain element in Tatiís work and with this one he covers the stylistic similarities between his films, like the use of geometry, the development and execution of gags, the use of space, sound, and so on. He also talks about how gags cross between films, with some being removed from one film only to be reused in another. A bit long but a decent companion to the other pieces by Goudet that appear throughout the set.

The disc then closes with an 8-minute clip from a 1977 episode of the French program 300 million díamis. The episode, entitled Le Hasard de Jacques Tati presents Tati talking about his dog, Hasard, and then segueing into a conversation about the dogs that appear in Mon oncle. It turns out he got them from a pound and Tati, not wanting to have to return there, ended up putting up an adoption ad that indicated the dogs were the same dogs that appeared in the film. Apparently they got a fairly big response.

And that concludes it. Missing is Líecole des facteurs, which was included on Criterionís original DVD but the film actually appears on the seventh disc of the set with the other Tati shorts. Overall, despite the fact the English version of the film gets a fairly mediocre upscale for a transfer, this new edition presents a nice roster of satisfying supplements.

8/10

CLOSING

With an improved transfer for the French feature and more supplements in comparison to Criterionís old DVD this new Blu-ray of Mon oncle is a solid upgrade.


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