This weekend I watched Jacques Tati’s “Mon Oncle”. Son the elder and his film buff friend floated in and out of the room. “Mon Oncle” revisits the character of “Monsieur Hulot Goes on Holiday.” Still the hapless bumbler from the earlier film, in “Mon Oncle” Monsieur Hulot takes us into his sister’s family. Ostensibly poking gentle fun at those who live in ultra-modern houses (and what fun it is fifty years on to see what the “modern life” purported to be), “Mon Oncle” is in many ways a lyric paen to small town life. Dogs run through streets, a streetsweeper engages in conversations that he cannot end, children play pranks on heedless adults.
Although Monsieur Hulot himself has his own encounter with automation run amok, it is the house itself which is one of our main characters. The kitchen is so modern that no one can get himself a glass of water. A living room so cold and unfriendly that the family lives outdoors. Yet there are hints of warmth. Round windows are two great eyes that open and close.
And if the city and its train station come with a brash jazz soundtrack, the return to the dogs and the children and the sound of a nostalgic accordion remind us that we have come home.