Monday, December 14, 2009

A Christmas Tale (Un Conte Noel) 2008

Okay, this is not your typical American Christmas film. Of course this might have something to do with the film being French, but I recently watched it and thought it was very good. This is a Christmas tale about a tremendously dysfunctional family: drunken outbursts, off-putting but hilarious confessions, and just typical French behavior.

The Vuillards, Abel (Jean-Paul Roussillon) and Junon (Catherine Deneuve), are hosting a long-overdue family Christmas celebration at their house. Why? Junon has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant (this is not a sad film!). Their three grown children (with their children) and a cousin are their entertainment. Mathieu Amalric plays the black sheep Henri. He has a very strained relationship with his playwright sister Elizabeth and a complicated bond with his mother. When it is revealed that both Henri and Paul, Elizabeth’s 16 year old unstable son, are compatible donors, the family engages in what can only be described as an acerbic conversation about who does what. To complicate the situation even more, Junon doesn’t even know if she wants to do the procedure for what it might do to her looks (among other painful things).

The scenes between Junon and Henri are priceless. Here’s a taste of their exchanges:
Junon asks Henri : "You still don't love me?"
"I never loved you," he replies.
And Junon, in her turn, with a little laugh: "Me either."

There are also a number of other family complications intertwined with the bone marrow plot that are compelling. Chiara Mastroianni (Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni’s daughter) plays Junon’s daughter-in-law, who’s evidently in love with both her husband and the family cousin. There are a number of philosophical, literary, and cinematic references that pop in and out as well.

Deneuve and Amalric are a delight to watch throughout the film. The final scene, which ties the whole thing together, will make you laugh and ponder what just happened.

1 comment:

  1. Kim, this sounds like an interesting film. I've always liked European films. Perhaps it's because both my parents were from Europe (Spain). I've seen a few films from France, Italy, and Sweden and loved them all.