Mon Oncle Antoine (My Uncle Antoine) Reviews
So many different things are considered 'coming of age' that it's hard to state what that phrase means exactly. In the case of this film, it refers to a succession of seemingly unconnected, natural events that amount to an undeniable turning point: as if, in an instant, someone removed a carpet from under our feet and we were forced to jump into a realization, something we had never been aware of before. This all sounds very vague but comes across very clearly in Mon Oncle Antoine...
Benoit, a young boy, lives with his aunt and uncle. He helps them run the town's Magasin General and undertaking services. When the film begins, snow is falling and the town is getting ready fro Christmas; Benoit's Aunt meticulously prepares the shop's window displays, and he helps arrange the decoration and paper wrappings. A day before, he had helped his Uncle arrange the funeral of an old miner. So goes his life, a perfectly liveable and perfectly unexciting doing and undoing of little tasks. However, a combination of subtle experiences, including one with another young shopkeeper, and the mission to collect the body of a 15 year old boy several miles of snow away, bring him to a confrontation with the faces of life that had been hidden all along before. It's the old "loss of innocence" theme, regarding sex in one hand and death in the other, but told so wonderfully it only really sinks after credits roll.
This film is more mood than performance-driven; in fact the actors are so natural they almost go unnoticed, given the lack of eccentricity or any particular spectacularity in the characters themselves. If there is one remarkable thing it is Benoit's facial expression as his own awareness of passion and horror begin to expand. What I found most charming of all was the cinematography and creative use of camera movements, all supported by an awe-inspiring backdrop of both menacing and tranquil snow. The indoors scenes are filled with warmth and a feeling of community and familiarity so, somehow, the film is successfully alienating and inviting all at once.
Mon Oncle Antoine is certainly one of the most delicate and heartbreaking films about change and... yes, "coming of age" I've seen. I think at all ages people have to come to terms with something new, perhaps disagreeable and unexpected. That's why I don't think this kind of film ever loses its relevance. Watch it on a cold night with a glass of liquor and you'll be all right.
Le rythme narratif, assez lent, est rythmé par la beauté des paysages et par une musique superbe.
Les acteurs sonnent juste; l'histoire très touchante.
Bref, Mon Oncle Antoine a le don de rendre nostalgique n'importe quel québécois. L'hiver, la neige et les tempêtes, le mononcle qui parle joual et qui se saoule le soir de Noël. Le film est directement tiré du terroir québécois, parfois même on ne croit plus voir une fiction mais bien une sorte de documentaire.
L'univers de fête de vieux films comme la Guerre de Tuques (plus récent), viennent chercher cette magie des fêtes enneigées et ses souvenirs enfouis dessous.
The film is a sort of slice-of-life picture that takes place in an asbestos mining town in Quebec sometime during the early 1940's. It's a humble working class town with miners unrightfully taken advantage of by the American mine owners. This critique is covered in the very beginning minutes of the film in order to establish a setting, but from there the film goes from something more personal than political.
Benoit (Jacques Gagnon) is the wide-eyed orphan that takes center stage. He's 15-years-old and lives with his Uncle Antoine (Jean Duceppe) and Aunt Cecile (Olivette Thibault). The family owns a general store in town, and Uncle Antoine also works as the town's undertaker. Benoit, who serves as an assistant, begins to develop an attraction to Carmen (Lyne Champagne), a young girl who works at the store. It's not only Benoit who has his sights set on Carmen, however, as Fernand (Claude Jutra), another employee of the store, pursues her despite being twice her age.
The main action of the film is a rather unforgettable sequence. On the night before Christmas, a boy not much older than Benoit dies in a nearby town. Antoine heads out to retrieve the body with Benoit. The journey is marvelously filmed - it's a surreal struggle against a blizzard in a completely enveloping white landscape.
Something about "Mon Oncle Antoine" didn't quite work for me. The film feels very cold (no pun intended) and calculated, and I didn't develop any sort of connection with any of the people in town. The performances are good, but the film never seems to come alive. That being said, however, I was fascinated by the brilliant cinematography and direction, and was entertained throughout, albeit unattached.