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‘Simply having a wonderful Christmastime…’

12 December 2009

I saw the same clip from The Ten Commandments of Charlton Heston as Moses parting the Red Sea twice this week: last night as the Syracuse Crunch hockey team took to the ice (they won) and during A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël, 2008, dir. Arnaud Desplechin), when the family watches the movie on TV during their holiday visit.

Emile Berling, Mathieu Amalric, and Catherine Deneuve in "A Christmas Tale"

The film was a critical success (though I see from the sampling of comments on The New York Times on-line, viewers seemed to either love it or hate it). I didn’t have such strong feelings about it; I enjoyed it and wasn’t bored despite its length (2.5 hours). I haven’t seen any other Desplechin films; I don’t know if the unusual music and scene pairings and other attention-getting devices are typical. The story’s a well-worn subject: the dysfunctional family get-together over the holidays. I found what pleased me most about the film was its staying power. Too often it’s not only the blockbusters that seem to disappear from thought as soon as the credits end–for me, plenty of art-house films also seem as insubstantial. I thought about the characters and wondered about the Christmas (and Easter) story parallels that might be drawn days after I saw A Christmas Tale.

The film is out on DVD and it’s available on Sundance on Demand. (For you Time Warner customers: see your Free Movies on Demand channel). Postscript: For OFG friends who saw our screening of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, it was a twist to see Anne Cosigny and Mathieu Amalric work together in A Christmas Tale as well–not as close collaborators in Diving Bell, though, but as two completely alienated and hostile siblings.

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