A word that is far too easily awarded when it comes to motion pictures is the word "masterpiece." That said, there is little doubt Mon oncle Antoine is just that. Often described as poignant, and starkly honest, the story is set in the 1940s in a village that is part of the rugged asbestos mining area of Québec. We meet Benoît, a 15-year-old boy who has been orphaned and sent to live with a foster family. His uncle, Antoine, played by Jean Duceppe, runs the general store. He is also the village undertaker. With the mine closed for the holiday, the local inhabitants seem to forget their poverty and converge on the store as if it is the very centre of their lives. At at that time in that place perhaps it was. We are gently nudged toward a nostalgia for a time most viewers never experienced, not even when the movie was released. Yet we are coaxed into accepting this warm reality as our own. Many in Québec considered the film backward looking at the time. Ultimately this is a coming-of-age story. On Christmas Eve, Benoît accompanies his uncle to a farm to collect the body of a young boy and so begins a night in which he must grow up. It is almost a form of initiation. Not just into adulthood but into his newly adopted home, family and neighbours. At the 1972 Canadian Film Institute Awards, Mon 0ncle Antoine was chosen as Best Feature Film. It also won awards for Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Musical Score and Overall Sound. Jean Duceppe was named Best Actor and Olivette Thibault was honoured as Supporting Actress. It went on to win 21 other national and international awards.
104 minutes - Drama
Release date: November 12, 1971
Canadian distributor: The National Film Board of Canada
US Distributor: Janus Films.
Click here to see a copy of the US Poster, now in the Northernstars Collection.