The limited understanding I had of Jacques Tati films going into watching Mon Oncle was that he was some sort of post-Chaplin Chaplin—a brilliantly zany physical comedian who used the tools of his era to make people laugh and occasionally tug on some heartstrings.
While I had seen and adored The Illusionist, the 2010 animated film that borrows heavily from Tati’s style and that Sarah alluded to in her opening take, I wasn’t quite prepared for how emotional this film would make me.
Maybe that’s a stigma I have against comedies or a stigma against minimalism, but Mon Oncle is a breath of fresh air, especially in the middle of the dreadfully garish cinematic summer of 2017 defined by meaningless overindulgence. 
The look of Mon Oncle can only be described as “futuristically dated,” meaning it contains a 1950s idea of what the next few decades would bring in terms of fashion, technology, and architecture. Tati’s obvious disdain for these qualities comes through in the ways he embraces simpler country life and mocks those who’ve fallen for this ridiculous spitting fish. It’s in these qualities that I think the film maintains its timelessness. Viewers in the moment could laugh at what was to come. Viewers through the ages could find amusement in what they thought would be. 
Those watching now could also empathize with Tati’s fear for losing old-world charm, aesthetic and otherwise, for the sake of modern convenience. That’s Mon Oncle’s emotional core, and the film never devolves into Nicholas-Sparks-esque histrionics, but I nearly did. It’s too proud for that without ever wearing such sentiments on its sleeve. And above all else, it’s conceived of and composed by a man who’s among the best at what he does in the world.
One of the other fun things about this film, and Tati by extension, I suspect, is that matter doesn’t matter. What does that mean? The laws of physics don’t really apply here, and while that seems like a stretch for even a film as fantastical as this, you’re so quickly taken that you really don’t bother asking questions. This plays out delightfully in a scene shortly after Monsieur Hulot arrives at Villa Arpel and drops a large light-bulb-shaped device. He panics, as one would, before realizing the thing has the give and bounce of a volleyball. It makes no physical sense, but it’s a funny sight—made all the funnier when he tries the same thing with a glass. 
If you’re checking this out and, like me, it’s your first Tati, imagine Chaplin as framed by Gregg Toland of Citizen Kane. That’s not far off from what Mon Oncle has to offer, and I feel no shame in contextualizing the film among such names. Playtime, I understand, is generally regarded as Tati’s masterpiece, but that probably means Mon Oncle is his The Magnificent Ambersons. Not bad company. And with my first viewing down, I’m excited to find out what his Touch of Evil and Chimes at Midnight are.