Jacques Tati’s first color film Mon oncle (1958) was a great success, winning both the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival as well as the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Foreign language or not, Tati’s films communicate via the familiar language of silent films, that is, comedy – what is said is not important. The sounds of chatter are merely a part of the soundscape, alongside the humming and whirring of brand new appliances.
Monsieur Hulot’s old-fashioned dwelling on the outskirts of the city comes with its own challenges, and his life is filled with lovable shenanigans. Living is no smoother at the alienatingly modern robot house of his sister, where the fish-shaped fountain is only turned on for fancy guests. The schoolboy Gérard oscillates between these two ways of life like a curious agent.
Tati juxtaposes these two ways of life; the nostalgic but dying continental European way, and the American hyper-sterile and efficient modern everyday life. The film parodies and pokes fun at the architecture, fashion, and social traditions of the 1950s in a warmly teasing way. Despite the engineer’s best efforts to plan the building down to every last minute detail, the residents and their dachshund can still manage to make it all fall apart with their clumsiness and antics.