Mon Oncle d'Amérique

Director: Alain Resnais
Year Released: 1980
Rating: 3.0

Resnais is either in one boat or the other for me: he's either wonderfully intelligent, turning potentially pretentious scenarios into works of art (the poetic voice-over for Night and Fog) or painfully pretentious and utterly dull, like in Muriel, which I do not have the patience to sit through. Mon Oncle starts off puzzling, but actually, as it goes along, makes more and more sense - I don't mind being lead astray if I'm eventually shown why. There are three individuals who meet each other and affect each others' lives, and all of them are to some degree ruined by their personal relationships, their intolerable jobs, or both. But when Resnais mixes in the scientist character, who rationally "explains" these people to us, the viewers, and compares them, completely straight-faced, to mice, and how mice react to stress, I realized there's really so much more there; by putting a documentary-like set-up in a work of fiction - and then using the one to comment on the other - he runs the risk of turning the whole thing into an armchair psychological session, but it is never done in bad taste and works very well. Watching a Resnais film is the closest you'll come to pure intellectualism in the history of motion pictures, and, despite his tendency to cause things to lag at times and show a single-minded obsession with inanimate/borderline meaningless objects, which is distracting, it works and works well. Just don't ask me to go into detail as to what it's about.