Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Christmas Tale (Un Conte de Noel)

A dysfunctional family Christmas—in French.

At the heart of the family madness is the death of the oldest child, Joseph, as a boy. (This isn’t a spoiler—they tell you in the first few minutes of the film.) The only possible cure for Joseph, who suffered from a blood disease, was a bone marrow transplant. None of the family—his parents, Junon and Abel, or his younger sister, Elizabeth—were a match. So as a last ditch effort, they conceived another child—Henri—in hopes that he would be able to save Joseph. But Henri isn’t a match, either.

The rest of the movie is how that set of circumstances plays out over the years in this sometimes crazy but usually charming family. It all comes to a head at this particular Christmas gathering.

Catherine Deneuve, as the matriarch, Junon, is not to be missed. But honestly, they were all wonderful. This is one I might well have to see again—not only because I enjoyed it so much, but because there’s so much going on, at any given time, that I’m sure there were things I missed. In fact, I think Arnaud Desplechin, the director, wants to leave you with question marks. Not in the sense that you don’t understand the film, but in the sense that all your neurons are firing.

Desplechin is a fan of Truffaut’s idea that four ideas should be introduced in a film every minute. Not necessarily serious ones. But four, none the less. You definitely feel the largesse at the end of this movie. Yeah, I definitely think I need to see it again.

1 comment:

Wesley said...

Have you seen "Kings and Queen"? Another Desplechin movie that shoots ideas at you like buckshot, another with a splendid Catherine DeNeuve and that other guy, the one who plays Henri in this one - as well as Emmanuelle Davos, who kind of defines sexy-ugly for me (I love her!)