126 minutes| France| 1980| Subtitled| Colour| 35mm

From an Oscar-nominated screenplay by Jean Gruault, Resnais has fashioned a biological and environmental treatise on human behaviour. Three case histories are set forth, involving middle-class characters of varying aspiration and achievement, and whose lives only lightly connect: a government official (Roger Pierre), an actress (Nicole Garcia) and a textile plant manager (Gerard Depardieu). Each has his or her screen counterpart (respectively, Jean Marais, Danielle Darrieux and Jean Gabin) as perhaps an ironic role model or ideal, whilst the eponymous American uncle is not a character as such but a symbol of a hoped-for delivery from their present existence that never comes. Interspersed with their stories are the theories of an actual behaviourist scientist, Henri Laborit, whose ideas might account for their lives but then again might simply be imposing a reductive pattern to humanity whose fantasy and pathos ultimately elude scientific explanation.

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