Alain Resnais Andrew Sarris - Essay

Andrew Sarris

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Alain Resnais's Mon Oncle d'Amerique may be the funniest movie about the horrors of working since Charles Chaplin's Modern Times. I know this sounds strange, because Resnais's work never struck anyone as intentionally funny; his films have evoked, instead, a few giggles over the years for what has been alleged to be his failed seriousness or lame whimsy….

The invidious critical catchword "didactic" will probably haunt the film for a long time, particularly in the unusually risky passages in which the characters reenact some of their scenes with the heads of white rats superimposed on their bourgeois-clad bodies. A more felicitous supplementary strategy is to identify each of the characters with a role model from the galaxy of French movie stars….

[Failure] and disenchantment are very much the order of the day and night in [the film's] three interlocking stories…. Indeed, there are so many layers to the film that one almost feels the ground shifting under one's feet….

The last shot of the picture consists of footage reportedly taken in the burned-down South Bronx. Whether or not this constitutes L'Amerique for Resnais is not clear. Nor is it clear where exactly Resnais is situated in the elaborate structure of the film. But time and again, I was reminded of every other film Resnais had ever made.

Andrew Sarris, "Waiting for Godard, Resnais, and Fuller," in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice; copyright © News Group Publications, Inc., 1980), Vol. XXV, No. 22, June 2, 1980, p. 41.∗