Film: Design & Architecture

Mon Oncle (1958)

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Mon Oncle is a 1958 film by French filmmaker Jacques Tati. The film centers on the awkward and lovable character, Monsieur Hulot, and his struggle with postwar France’s infatuation with modern architecture, mechanical efficiency, and American-style consumerism. Young Gérard, who lives with his materialistic parents in an ultra-modern house and garden (Villa Arpel) in a new suburb of Paris, relies on his adored uncle, M. Hulot, to provide random escapes from his sterile and monotonous life at home.

(above) The father, M. Arpel, finishes off his morning coffee in a perfect gray suit while viewing his landscape of perfections.
(above) The father, M. Arpel, finishes off his morning coffee in a perfect gray suit while viewing his landscape of perfections.

Despite the superficial beauty of its modern design, Villa Arpel is entirely impersonal, as are the Arpels themselves. Tati uses monochromatic shades and cloudy days to illustrate the Arpel’s home life and vivid colors and bright light to coincide with the arrival of Uncle Hulot and other visitors. In choosing modern architecture to illustrate his satire, Jacques Tati once stated, “Les lignes géométriques ne rendent pas les gens aimables” (“geometrical lines do not produce likeable people”). Every facet of Villa Arpel emphasizes the supremacy of superficial aesthetics and electrical gadgets over the reality of daily living.

(above) Rubberized housecoat is the customary feminine morning attire.
(above) Rubberized housecoat is the customary feminine morning attire.
(above) Taking OCD to a new level
(above) Taking OCD to a new level
(above) The ornamental fish-fountain feature is deliberately turned on to squirt for special guests.
(above) The ornamental fish-fountain feature is deliberately turned on to squirt for special guests.
(above) After the home tour, the guest is shown the stunning landscape.
(above) After the home tour, the guest is shown the stunning landscape.
(above) Not all guests, such as Uncle Hulot, appreciate the blue squirt. Usually this feature is not activated on his arrival.
(above) Not all guests, such as Uncle Hulot, appreciate the blue squirt. Usually this feature is not activated on his arrival.
(above) Taking a leisurely stroll through the extensive gardens
(above) Taking a leisurely stroll through the extensive gardens
(above) A push of a button provides an efficient access to the street.
(above) A push of a button provides an efficient access to the street.
(above) The outdoor patio provides an extended living space for the nightly television entertainment.
(above) The outdoor patio provides an extended living space for the nightly television entertainment.
(above) Evidently color would be disrupting in the work environment.
(above) Evidently color would be disrupting in the work environment.
(above) Glass panels help to add color and sparkly interest to M. Arpel's office. Oh, and the plant, too.
(above) Glass panels help to add color and sparkly interest to M. Arpel’s office. Oh, and the plant, too.
(above) Meanwhile, back at home, a second visitor, the next door neighbor, has been welcomed and made to feel comfortable.
(above) Meanwhile, back at home, a second visitor, the next door neighbor, has been welcomed and made to feel comfortable.
(above) With a push of a button, out pops lunch.
(above) With a push of a button, out pops lunch.
(above) Saying goodbye to some interesting accessories.
(above) Saying goodbye to some interesting accessories.
(above) A quiet luncheon al fresco
(above) A quiet luncheon al fresco
(above) Until Uncle Hulot's unexpected visit
(above) Until Uncle Hulot’s unexpected visit
(above) The trick to ensuring a short visit is to provide seating that is 100 percent form and zero percent function.
(above) The trick to ensuring a short visit is to provide seating that is 100 percent form and zero percent function.
(above) A little coffee before going back to work
(above) A little coffee before going back to work
(above) You must finish your sterilized supper before going to bed.
(above) You must finish your sterilized supper before going to bed.
(above) Spying on the neighbor
(above) Spying on the neighbor
(above) No wonder she's so thin.
(above) No wonder she’s so thin.
(above) It's a garden party with some uptight chairs.
(above) It’s a garden party with some uptight chairs.
(above) We have another form vs function situation.
(above) We have another form vs function situation.
(above) A stroll in the garden is the perfect venue for making a business proposal.
(above) A stroll in the garden is the perfect venue for making a business proposal.
(above) They can't really see that it's Uncle Hulot out there trying to fix something he broke.
(above) They can’t really see that it’s Uncle Hulot out there trying to fix something he broke.
(above) All you have to do is cross the beam of light and the door opens. Nothing can go wrong.
(above) All you have to do is cross the beam of light and the door opens. Nothing can go wrong.
(above) This is not the end of the film, but it does indicate where things are heading.
(above) This is not the end of the film, but it does indicate where things are heading.

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