A Christmas Tale (The Criterion Collection)

Joyous delight sits down at table with human frailty, and the meal thoroughly satisfies!

April 6th, 2011 by Wayward Muse
Rating: Featured Actors: , , Actors: Anne Consigny, Chiara Mastroianni, Emile Berling, Francoise Bertin, Hippolyte Girardot, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Laurent Capelluto Featured Directors: Languages:
A Christmas Tale

A Christmas Tale is the story of a dysfunctional family that comes home for a little Christmas healing. The whole cast is exceptional, and the characters are captivating. It’s not particularly edgy or exceedingly artsy (a little, but not too); things I rather enjoy typically, but I thought it was great nonetheless. It is very “artistic” but in a very accessible rather than experimental way. It’s very long at 2 1/2 hours but I wasn’t bored for a moment and could just go on and on voyeuristically enjoying these terrific performances and fascinating characters. Even the most outrageously dysfunctional behaviors just seem “natural” not maudlin, not exploitative, not sensationalized. All the various relationships are treated with so much more nuance and sophistication than most Hollywood offerings—always a great draw of foreign film.

While there is some alcoholism on display, the bulk of the family dysfunction seems to stem from the death of a son from childhood leukemia at age 6, and the ongoing impact of this loss on the parents, siblings, and extended family. There is also a multi-generational family history of mental illness. The movie comes full circle as the mother, Catherine Deneuve’s character, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, which triggers the assembly of the whole clan for the first time in 5 years. There are no clear good guys and bad guys, and few clear resolutions either—but at the end of the movie I was in love with this family—it’s not a Disney-type feel-good movie, but it was a wonderful, humane, and uplifting movie—ambiguous like life.

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