Flashback Film: Mon Oncle Antoine

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5y6v3YAjlQ[/embed] The 1971 French-Canadian film, Mon Oncle Antoine (My Uncle Antoine) is a modest yet authentic portrayal of a a young boy’s coming of age story, making it a Canadian classic.

Director Claude Jutra set the film in poor rural Quebec during the 1940s’. He chose to focus on the coming of age journey of the film’s main character Benoit (Jacques Gagnon). However, he did not shy away from giving depth to its other characters and revealing the nuances and general vibe of this particular part of Quebec. Thus, making the film more than just a coming of story, but also a story about the town and its residents.

The camera work of the film acts almost as a narrator, due to the fact that it uses close ups and quick cuts to mould the viewer’s emotions. Additionally, the camera work is generally catered to Benoit’s perspective, making the audience see the story unfold through his eyes and feelings.

The film kicks off during Christmas time and made the story fall under a 24 hour time frame. Benoit is a boy interested in things that most typical adolescent males are interested in like girls and their body parts. He is under the care of his uncle Antoine (Jean Duceppe) who owns a modest general store along with his wife Cecile (Olivette Thibault) and he acts as the town’s undertaker. Benoit and a young girl named Carmen (Lyne Champagne) live with and work for the troubled couple.

Antoine is a drunkard and reveals to Benoit that he despises the way he is living his life. Cecile struggles with infidelity within the movie, for she eventually has an affair with one of her employees. A series of experiences, a lost corpse and Benoit’s observations of the adults around him cause Benoit to grow into his own.

The general pacing of the film was quite slow, which in the end was more beneficial to the film rather than detrimental. Due to the slower pacing the build up to the film’s climax is amplified. Also, it makes it easier for the audience to follow along and digest each part of the film.

It seemed like Jutra did not want to put much emphasis on details within the story and rather looked at the bigger picture, more highlighting major emotions and themes throughout the film. Mon Oncle Antoine does not have blatantly dramatic moments nor does it have a lot of suspense or excitement like the films seen today. Even so, the 70s’ film is more subtle and has more of a gradual buildup towards the end of the movie, making the film timeless and enjoyable in every generation.

Mon Oncle Antoine is considered by many critics as “the best Canadian film of all time.” The film does not have the flashy cinematography like many of the films today, but it does succeed at conveying raw human emotions and experiences, without being too in your face. It has a strong storyline, great character development and an honest portrayal of 1940s’ rural Quebec. Therefore, Mon Oncle Antoine being bestowed with the title “the best Canadian film of all time” is clearly justified.