My American Uncle

Umbrella Ent / Region 4

Featuring Gerard Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, Roger Pierre

Famed French director Alain Resnais is often badged as a difficult auteur, his films pulled no punches, particularly his early ones which were almost wholly concerned with the Holocaust, whether that be the harrowing documentary of Night and Fog (made in 1955) or the drama Hiroshima Mon Amour (his 1959 classic) and even in this new Umbrella release, one of his most accessible films, there are moments of Holocaust imagery.

Resnais has always been fond of abstract narrative and in My American Uncle (put together after Resnais had been observing the work of human behaviourial theorist Henry Laborit and indeed early ideas for the film had been to make it a documentary) he takes a conventional story of a group of disparate people whose lives slowly come together. Gerard Depardieu is Rene, a manager at a textale factory who faces problems when he is demoted and his new post takes him away from both his wife and child. Janine(Nicole Garcia) is a moderately successful actress having an affair with radio boss Jean (played by Roger Pierre).

Plotwise its all relatively straightforward then but Resnais (and his sciptwriter Jean Gruault) plays fast and loose with conventional ideas of narrative. The opening plays out like a lecture (featuring Laborit as himself) and Resnais also includes clips of classic French movie stars, to represent each of the different characters in the movies and most blatantly of all includes a surreal scene where the leads are white rats in a lab, it is here of course that his experiment is made plain.

Mon Oncle d’Amérique works on several different levels and is a supreme thought provoking look at how background, our generally inhibited nature and the social mores of our time ultimate influence the choices we make.

The movie also includes an excellent indepth 50 minute discussion with noted film expert Peter Hourigan examing the films of Resnais. The disc also includes the theatrical trailer.