Uncles + Saturday = hilarious cultural extremes

Throughout the world, there’s a faultless equation that “Whacky uncles” + “Vehicles” = “Comic Gold”.

In France, they have Jacques Tati. Here is a clip from ‘Mon Oncle’ from 1958.

Just look at those whacky colours on the car!!! Hilarious stuff – this was top-shelf in 1958 – and still surpasses most of the comedy France has produced since, outside of the public service.

Now, here’s Australia’s answer from the 80s, Glenn Robbins as Uncle Arthur.

Come to think of it, Australian comedy hasn’t come much further either.

Given the the precedent, could you blame me when my long-lost (well, seldom seen) Australian uncle rang me out of the blue and invited me to a car show outside of Paris?

I’m hardly the car type – the last time I’d driven one was in Montpellier, 2007. I was driving some friends to a Cat Empire concert in Arles (follow the link for my account of the event). It was night, I was driving at 130km/h on a highway in pouring rain, and I didn’t know how to reverse. Every time we entered a carpark looking for a spot, we all had to get out and push the car back out again.

At the end of the evening, I’d paid for three underground carparking tickets (just in Montpellier! – I wasn’t trying to park, just trying to find the right street home), and kicked a bin out of frustration, which almost broke my toe, and caused my shoe to fly off with comic effect and land in a large puddle.

The car show turned out to be the usual collection of old cars, old men, beige clothes, and lots of fishing vests. Seriously, why do enthusiasts, especially car enthusiasts, like fishing vests? I have enough trouble finding my car keys when I’m just wearing three-pocket jeans.

Nevertheless, i benefited from my uncle’s expertise to learn terms such as “power to weight ratio”, and “carburator”. I also learnt that enamel petrol station signs are a good investment – IF THEY ARE ORIGINAL, but what’s even better, is those crapbox tin-plate toys from the 1930s. Would you believe someone was selling a tin-plate steamer for 14,000 euros?!

Rare luxury cars have apparently not just held their value in recent times, but actually increased. So what’s the difference between investing in cars and investing in paintings?

“You can’t drive a carpaccio,” said my Uncle, later correcting himself to say “Caravaggio”*.

That evening, I was exhausted after a long day traipsing round parts of Paris best left unvisited (there’s a reason Le Bourget exhibition grounds is not as well known as the Eiffel Tower), having done lots of “Looking with the eyes only” (what is it about enthusiasts that makes them so anal about being allowed to touch things??).

My friend Lola’s uncle is a famous contemporary composer called Bruno Ducol. A performance was being held in St Germain to honour his 60th birthday.

It’s hard to imagine a greater cultural schism: I had just spent the afternoon warily avoiding eye contact with men with hair gelled into rockabilly bouffants, and was now in the thick of Paris’ contemporary music scene in the rich and chic 6th arrondisement.

brunoducolThe first thing I realised was that Lola’s uncle bore more than a passing resemblance to Saddam Hussein in his later years.

If not him, then perhaps one of his body doubles (you can tell by the shape of the ears – and Hussein’s body doubles also look a lot less hungover (boom boom *joke!).

The music over the next two hours ranged from cello to percussion, piano to choral, haunting to tedious, and everything in between.

I’ve always found contemporary music one of the harder contemporary arts to get into (I recently cracked contemporary dance – at a performance of two men and 25 remote controlled cars), and this performance wasn’t making it easier.

A standout moment though, was when Bruno’s son performed a percussion solo, pausing to robot move his way across the stage yelling “I want to create, I want to create”. He is a very talented musician and I am a total sucker for percussion (I was dropped on my head as child and I liked the sound of the bounce).

For the finale, the entire front row of the audience jumped on stage and joined in the ceremonial feasting on the body of a less fortunate member of the ensemble, who had been laid out on a table in the middle of the stage.

Still, by the end I felt that my appeciation of the arts  been enriched by the experience. Not only that,  but I’d discovered that not all whacky uncles need vehicles to create moving experiences.

*This didn’t necessarily happen, but I thought it was a nice line.


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One Response to “Uncles + Saturday = hilarious cultural extremes”

  1. A description of the aforementioned infamous car journey to Arles to see Cat Empire « Tintin in Paris Says:

    […] Tintin in Paris Desititute from years of travelling the world as a ‘reporter’, Tintin moves to Paris and takes a job in corp comms. « Uncles + Saturday = hilarious cultural extremes […]

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