Mon Oncle: Do We Control Technology, Or Does Technology Control Us?

In the prime of his filmmaking career, French director Jacques Tati had an obsession with technology and modernism. More specifically, he was fascinated with the ways in which it was changing our behavior. Of his films that tackle these themes, 1958's Mon Oncle is the one that really looked deeply at the increasingly significant role gadgets played in a changing world.


Mon Oncle is a film nearly devoid of dialogue. Humor is derived from moments which repeat themselves over and over again. Scenes are intricately choreographed and impeccably photographed. It's masterful. At the center of the film is a tech-filled home of the future—by 1958 standards—whose novelty has so entranced a married couple, that they wall themselves off and go to great inconveniences to make full use of all the home's 'innovations.' The wife's brother—the bumbling M. Hulot—serves as a counterpoint, highlighting virtue of simplicity. On paper, his skepticism towards technology and modern living seems like it makes his life harder and less convenient. But in actuality, his quality of life is emotionally more rewarding, if not materially.

That's not to say that this is a heavy-handed critique of all technological innovation. On the contrary, this is slapstick comedy at its finest. And Mon Oncle merely exposes the silliness of technology for technology's sake and our occasional failure to examine whether or not the latest and greatest gadgets are really improving our lives. Pretty insightful for something made 54 years ago. [Hulu Plus]


To add to the chorus of "Mon Oncle" lovers, it should be noted that Jacques Tati did the movie twice. He filmed it in french, and then switched some actors and filmed it in english with english speaking actors. The signs in french were also switched to english. That guy was global even by today's standards

The title for the english version is "My Uncle", which is quite logical. You can find both versions on remastered DVD versions.

His views on modernity are further explored in "Playtime"