What's it all about?:
Set in a small Québec mining community around Christmas, this coming of age film examines life in the Maurice Duplessis-era of rural Québec, prior to the Asbestos Strike of the late 1940s.
The plot of Mon oncle Antoine revolves around a family store owned by Antoine, who also runs the local undertaking business. The story is told from the point of view of a 15 year-old central character, Benoît, a young boy who lives with his uncle and aunt Cécile at the store and who observes the adults around him with an amused but critical eye.
The Asbestos Strike is regarded by Québec historians as a seminal event that led to the Quiet Revolution. Jutra's film, thus, is viewed as an examination of the social conditions in Québec's old, agrarian, conservative and cleric dominated society that gave birth to the dramatic social and political changes that transformed the province a decade later.
The film draws the spectator into Benoît's perspective on his community, and much of its appeal derives from its depiction of an apparently simpler past by the cinematic device of a child witness, we see the world through his eyes, looking at his corrupting community with fresh and innocent eyes. Mon oncle Antoine demonstrated the possibilities of Canadian cinema at a time when few Canadian feature films had achieved critical or commercial success. This film has twice been hailed as "the great Canadian movie," something it has remained ever since. In 1980 it was voted the best film ever made in Québec in a poll of critics conducted by Séquences magazine, and it was honoured as the best Canadian film in similar polls conducted by the Toronto Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival) in 1984 and 1993.
Some scenes drags on a little, viewers should be aware that this is an autobiographical, contemplative film which shows, in a very simple simple direct style, the bleak and stoic life of a small community, living next to giant slag heaps of asbestos.
The Downright Ugly:
Viewers who're looking for entertainment will be sorely disappointed.
The plot is a good one; it leaves you thinking, and it involves a boy's coming of age, sex, love and death, however Mon Oncle Antoine is about revolution, albeit a Quiet one. It manages to capture a time in Québec not often portrayed in cinema. Mon Oncle Antoine's strength lies in the depth of its characters and the richness of the settings. However, it will only appeal to a certain type of cinema goer.
Release Date: 1971
Directed by: Claude Jutra
Starring: Jacques Gagnon, Jean Duceppe
Country of Origin: Canada