Monsieur Hulot lives in the old neighbourhood, in a lost-paradise version of his French town, an idealistic vision where buildings need a new coat of paint, dogs roam the streets, old ladies buy vegetables while the salesman drinks at a terrace nearby, where horse-ridden carriages roam the streets. (Yes, indeed, like modern day Romania, come to Romania, you Tati lovers, like now.) To get to his apartment, Mr. Hulot climbs up and down a labyrinth of stairs.
His nephew, the son of his sister and her industrialist husband, live in a state of the art, modern architecture house. When visitors arrive, the lady has a ritual. Before pushing the button which opens the door to the courtyard, she pushes another button that makes water come out of a giant state of a fish, in the garden-fountain. A true symbol of phoney social status.
In Mon Oncle, Tati pokes fun at modernity and its silliness by designing the house as a character in itself - which ends up bringing to their owners more trouble than comfort. When walking the garden, they hop-on from tile to tile as to not ruin the grass. When cooking there’s a tricky sequence of buttons that have to be pushed. The automated garage door traps the adults inside.
When his nephew escapes to the real side of town, the idealisation kicks in, he’s having “good old fun” with the other boys, he eats from street vendors, etc.
+ most inspired scene, when the 2 round shaped windows of the 1st floor of the modern house turn into rolling eyes, when the couple inspect what’s going on outside at night.
Less riddled with great gags than Playtime, which would follow almost 10 years later, Mon Oncle feels like a training ground, and acts as a heart softener.