• Mon Oncle d’Amerique (1980) - Alain Resnais

    Vincent Canby, NY Times (12/17/80):

    To a greater or lesser extent, all fiction is a study of human behavior. What distinguishes Mon Oncle d’Amérique, Alain Resnais’s fine, funny … French comedy, is the film’s mock-grave suggestion that human behavior isn’t quite as mysterious as we like to pretend it is and that, indeed, most of the terrible things that happen to us need not be inevitable … 

    Mon Oncle d’Amérique is a chatty movie, rather like the kind of nineteenth-century novel in which the author is always chiming in to comment on what’s happening and to make observations that instruct and amuse. In this case, the author is Dr. Laborit, whom we see being interviewed in his laboratory by Mr. Resnais …

    it’s immensely good-humored and witty. Mr. Resnais and Jean Gruault, the screenwriter (whose credits include Jules and Jim, The Wild Child, and Les Carabiniers, among others), neither patronize their characters nor make fun of them. They appreciate them and sympathize with their tangled lives even as we see René, Jean, and Janine behaving with the predictability of laboratory mice.”

     

    Roger Ebert (11/4/09):

    “Alain Resnais’ “Mon oncle d’Amerique” (1980) is one the New Wave pioneer’s best films, a winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes. It is audacious. Beginning with big stars of the time (Gerald Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, Roger Pierre), he tells the life stories of these three in a way that promises to be traditional narrative. Then he introduces a fourth figure. This is the much older Henri Laborit, a physician, philosopher, and expert on evolutionary psychology. Laborit … plays himself, he speaks directly to the camera, he explains his theories about human behavior and how it’s often illuminated by tests involving laboratory animals …

    His involvement in the film becomes its most intriguing element, elevating melodrama to the level of rather disturbing insight … The genius of the film is that even without Laborit and his rats, “Mon oncle d’Amerique” would tell an entertaining story on its own. The characters are sympathetic (given what we know about them), the narrative is well-constructed, and we care. What Resnais seems to be hinting is that the characters in a movie, and the people who make it, and those who watch it, may all be acting to some degree on impulses imbedded untold millennia ago on the shores of lonely seas …

    Alain Resnais … makes great and sometimes weighty films but is not lacking in a quixotic humor, and “Mon oncle d’Amerique” is in some ways a comedy. Also a film that has you discussing it for long afterward, and not in the terms you use for most films … By the way, the American uncle never shows up.”

     
     
    “The first genuine hit in Alain Resnais’ career (1981) takes off from the behaviorist theories of French scientist Henri Laborit, which are illustrated by the stories of three separate characters (Gerard Depardieu, Roger Pierre, and Nicole Garcia), each of whom identifies with a different French movie star and whose lives occasionally cross …
     
    What matters here is the fluidity of Resnais and screenwriter Jean Gruault’s masterful storytelling; they manage to convey a dense, multilayered narrative with remarkable ease and simplicity. The film is also memorable forits dead-on portrayal of French yuppiedom in its early ascendancy and for its beautifully ambiguous and open-ended finale.”
     
     

     

     

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    Categories: Drama