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Film / Mon Oncle Antoine

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Mon Oncle Antoine is a 1971 Canadian film directed and co-written by Claude Jutra, and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

It is set in a mining town in rural Quebec (and thus is in the French language) sometime around the 1940s. Antoine and his wife Cecile own a general store that is the focus of business in the little town. Antoine also has a second business as the town funeral director. The story is told from the perspective of his nephew Benoit, in his early teens, who works for his uncle as an assistant in both businesses. Also working in the general store are Carmen, a teenaged girl that Antoine is attracted to, and Fernand, who is attracted to his boss's wife. It's Christmastime, and everyone at the store is busy preparing for the holiday rush, and other business presents itself when Antoine and Benoit have to go far into the country to take custody of a corpse.

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  • Abusive Parents: Carmen lives with Antoine and Cecile, but she has a father in town. Apparently the sum of her father's involvement with her is when he comes to the store to collect her wages. Fernand asks Antoine "why don't you just adopt her?" Carmen breaks down crying after her father leaves.
  • The Alcoholic: Antoine is drinking constantly, including in the morning when he's working at the store. Benoit contemptuously calls him a drunkard when Antoine makes his In Vino Veritas confession late in the film.
  • Black Comedy: When Antoine and Benoit set out to collect the body of Jos Poulin's 15-year-old son, Antoine confidently asserts that a medium-sized coffin should be big enough. It isn't, and they kind of have to cram the body into a too-short casket. The Black Comedy gets amped up later when Antoine puts the whip to the horse on the way back home, and the coffin falls out of the sleigh.
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  • Call-Forward: The people in the town gripe about the owner of the asbestos mine failing to raise wages for the second consecutive year, while the mine owner makes a great show of riding through town on a sleigh, rather meanly flinging stockings with presents at the local children. In 1949 the Asbestos strike brought great upheaval to Quebec.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The main focus is on Benoit as he is coming of age, with his sexuality developing, and with being forced to help his drunken boss with the funeral business.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The story takes place over December 23-24, but that has little relevance to the plot other than bringing a rush of shoppers to Antoine's store.
  • Erotic Dream: Late in the film, an exhausted Antoine has an erotic dream in which a topless Alexandrine climbs out of a coffin and jumps up and down for him.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The opening scenes, in which Jos quits the asbestos mine and leaves his family at home while he goes off to find work as a lumberjack, take place somewhat earlier, but the main narrative with Antoine and Benoit unfolds over December 23-24.
  • Hello, Nurse!: Alexandrine, the town beauty. When she comes into the general store all the men there can't restrain themselves from murmuring about how much they'd like to have sex with her.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted when Jos Poulin's 15-year-old son dies of pneumonia.
  • In Vino Veritas: Antoine and Benoit are taking the boy's body back to town, with Benoit driving the sleigh because Antoine is passed out drunk. Benoit drives the sleigh too fast and the coffin falls out. When Benoit wakes his uncle up, a drunk Antoine bursts into tears, saying how he hates his life, he's disappointed over having no chidren, and he's scared of corpses despite working as an undertaker for 30 years.
  • Language Fluency Denial: Played for a gag when Jos, a Francophone miner, has a confrontation with a supervisor who speaks to him in English.
    Supervisor: (in English) I'm telling you for the last time, you understand? The last time!
    Jos: (in French) That may be sooner than you think.
    Mario: What did he say?
    Jos: I don't know. I don't speak English.
  • No Ending: Antoine is too drunk to help Benoit get the coffin back on the sleigh so they return without it. A horrified Ferdnand (who has just been caught by Benoit boning the boss's wife) goes out with Benoit to retrieve it. They wind up going all the way back to the Poulin home, where they discover that a returning Jos Poulin found his son's body and brought it back home. An astonished Benoit peers through the window as the Poulins mourn. Freeze frame, roll credits.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Sexy Alexandrine tries on a corset that has just arrived on order at the general store.
  • Peeping Tom: Benoit and his friend peek through the doorway as Alexandrine undresses to try on a corset.
  • Scenery Porn: Some stunningly beautiful cinematography of the snow-bound Quebec countryside.
  • Secondary Character Title: Antoine is a fairly important character but Benoit is the protagonist and the story is from his perspective.
  • Slice of Life: The whole film is a portrait of life in rural Quebec in the 1940s, before the "Quiet Revolution" that revolutionized Quebec society. There isn't a conventional story arc with a climax and resolution, but instead a portrayal of everyday working-class Quebecois.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Carmen is standing at the bottom of a ladder handing fake roses to Benoit, who is hanging the roses from the ceiling as part of the Christmas display. She decides to screw with Benoit by putting the last rose in the Compartment, which leads to Benoit being embarrassed when he reaches down for it and winds up pawing her breasts.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Near the end of the film, Benoit catches Cecile cheating on her husband with Ferdnand. He is appalled.
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