Mon Oncle Antoine (Criterion, 1971) D: Claude Jutra, w/ Jacques Gagnon, Lyne Champagne. Rating: NNNNN; DVD package: NNNNN
The topic is sex and death – always a grabber – but it’s the light tone and poetic realism that draw us in and give Mon Oncle Antoine a freshness that holds up over countless viewings.
Bitterness, warmth, humour, eeriness, erotic longings and an unspoken unease all emerge naturally from the tale of a young boy coming of age in a 1940s Quebec mining town. As he comes to understand adult failings, he moves from a child’s easy acceptance to a harsher stance.
Director Claude Jutra and cameraman Michel Brault, long-time collaborators, get impeccable naturalism from performers and visuals. Never plodding or forced, the tone is so smooth that the images don’t register as surreal, though they sometimes bite as hard as Buñuel.
In the DVD’s extensive extras, Jutra emerges as a passionate, playful man. The retrospective making-?of doc covers everything from his early fascination with cinema to the film’s troubled release and eventual recognition as a classic. Along the way, various critics and scholars comment on the film. You’ll find a radically different and thoroughly political view in the essay by scholar Andre Loiselle. Jutra’s life and work are thoroughly explored in Paule Baillargeon’s 80-?minute loving tribute.
EXTRAS Disc one: Widescreen. Disc two: retrospective making-?of doc, Jutra biography, Norman McLaren/Jutra short A Chairy Tale. Widescreen and full-?frame. Both discs English, French audio, English subtitles. Essay booklet.