Friday 1 January 2010

A Christmas Tale [2008]

The title of the French movie A Christmas Tale, by Arnaud Desplechin, is deliciously misleading, and reminded me a lot about another brilliant movie, Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsab (The Festival). Both the movies are about the getting together of a large family on the occasion of the most important festival of the respective community (Christmas in the former, and Durga Puja in the latter). However, the inherent joy and celebration surrounding the festivals form the perfect springboard for each director to put the respective family under scanner and open a can of worms in the process. The matriarch of the Vuillard family has been diagnosed with cancer, and hence the entire family – her daughter and two sons, along with their respective spouses and/or fiancé, as well, her nephew, have decided to forget their personal problems and differences for once and celebrate Christmas together at their family mansion. Alas, amidst all the brouhaha and fun, familial strains and conflicts become that much more pronounced in this irreverent, cynical and darkly comic, yet surprisingly humane movie, that hasn’t shied away from making biting observations at topics ranging from alcoholism and unrequited love to illness and death. The acting is wonderful throughout; yet special mention must be made of the stately Catherine Deneuve and the amazing Mathew Amalric.

Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Genre: Drama/Black Comedy/Family Drama/Ensemble Film
Language: French
Country: France


Alex DeLarge said...

Great film and has a very nice Criterion release on both Blu-ray and DVD. What could have been overblown familial melodrama is subtly expressed in the hands of Desplechin, a master filmmaker...with the help of an excellent cast!

Shubhajit said...

Absolutely. The script's irreverence and a certain playfulness even while depicting really serious issues played vital roles in making this such an eminently watchable movie.

Sam Juliano said...

I'll admit Shubhajit that I am less enthralled with this film than most, but I am certainly a huge fan of the director (his KINGS AND QUEEN will figure in prominently on my Best Films of the Decade list I am ready to post within a week or so. I am also an admirer of Mr. Almaric, (and Ms. Deneuve of course)who gave a beautiful performance in THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY. I will be soon looking at the blu-ray (as noted by Alex) that I've acquired of A CHRISTMAS TALE, but on first viewing I found it scattered, emotionally distancing and lacking the profundity of Despletchan's earlier masterpiece from 2005.
This is perfectly posted at the right time, Shubhajit, and the capsule makes a very convincing and enthusiastic case.