Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

‘Black Mirror’ meets HGTV, and a new genre, home design horror, is born

Illustration by Franziska Barczyk.

In Jacques Tati’s 1958 film, Mon Oncle, modernism bites back. The Arpels—mom, dad, son, dog—live in an up-to-date villa on an up-to-date suburban street. Monsieur Arpel commutes to his job at a plastics factory in an up-to-date automobile. Madame Arpel cooks with buttons and sprays (and yet still has to spend much of her time dusting).

What could go wrong?

Young Gerard and his pet desperately try to find something to do in an environment where everything has its place. Eventually they escape to the old part of the city where his uncle, Tati regular Monsieur Hulot, lives in an accidental building, made by accretion. There, they enjoy dirt, food, bicycles, life. Whenever Hulot encounters the new, whether in his sister’s kitchen or in his brother-in-law’s factory, something goes haywire. The interface has been designed for looks, not intuition, and he hasn’t been trained to follow their commands.