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Mon oncle Antoine

My Uncle Antoine

Revered by most Canadians as their nation’s greatest film, this bittersweet coming-of-age tale is set in rural Quebec over the course of one Christmas and describes, in attentive detail, the life of young Benoît (Jacques Gagnon), whose uncle Antoine (Jean Duceppe) owns the town’s general store and its undertaking business. On Christmas Eve, Benoît is allowed to accompany his uncle when he goes to pick up the body of a child who has died of fever. The sleigh journey to the remote farmhouse, the morbid ritual of preparing the corpse, and particularly a momentous return trip during which the coffin is lost and Benoît is exposed for the first time to examples of human frailty, have a profound effect on the boy and lead to a climax of shattering force. Most films of this kind are about moving on, the need to leave the nest, but director Claude Jutra’s affection for the town and its inhabitants means that Mon oncle Antoine is actually about the reasons people choose to stay on. The result is a lyrical and generous film, packed with small revelations and beautifully observed moments.
1971. English subtitles. Colour. 110 mins.
Plus Le Clermont by Nicolas Monette.
1999. 10 mins.

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