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Review: A Christmas Tale (2008)

Director: | 150 minutes | , | Actors: , , , , , Laurent Capelluto, , , , Hippolyte Girardot, , , , , , , Thomas Obled,

It seems as if French cinema can be divided into two periods: that before ‘Amelie’ and that afterwards. Not that everyone in France nowadays makes ‘Amélie’ clones, quite the contrary. The door was only opened to film as an authentic cultural expression. Or rather: reopened. France used to be the country of ‘the better film’, think of famous directors such as Godard, Truffaut and Malle. The country had sadly lost that name by making more and more pretentious dragons from films, in which talking was mainly done to talk, it seemed. Many people were already writing off France as a film nation. Until drew a line through the French film image.

Suddenly people were allowed to be creative again, idiosyncratic and yet entertaining. Moreover, people had outgrown the arrogance to think that only good films are made in France, because that chauvinistic trait also killed French cinema. And fortunately that tie is completely finished. The current films are more French than ever, but have also been influenced by cinema from other countries and fortunately not too much Hollywood. All attempts to sell a Hollywood-like title outside France (such as the ‘Asterix’ films) came to nothing. Fortunately. The French have grown up.

Catherine Deneuve is glorious, the memorable scenes with the only son “whom I don’t love” crackle with ambiguity, also thanks to a brilliant role by one of France’s great talents Mathieu Amalric, from ‘Un secret’ and ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly ‘(Le Scaphandre et le papillon’). The scene in which he recites the letter to his sister to the camera as a monologue of vengeance is powerful. Eldest daughter Elizabeth (Anne Consignia) is cringingly annoying in her unrelenting and unreasonable hatred for her brother. Father (Jean-Paul Roussillon) is jovial and compliant to the bone, the tensions can be cut, every second captivates. The film lasts two and a half hours and actually has no serious slump, while, in French, there is still a lot going on. Every scene is important too, every sentence, no matter how aside,

This is flawless direction by Arnaud Desplechin and an inventive form, without exaggerating, this is acting of the highest order, which is nourished by a complex but sophisticated scenario, in which real people, who say a lot but communicate poorly, are central. . People who live with each other, sometimes hate each other, but also feel a deep love, a love that hurts. And that pain is palpable. And they just revolve around each other, do what they want, or what someone else wants, get through the Christmas days with each other, jerking and bumping.

At the end it is finally complete and yet little has been explained, but we have felt and experienced a lot, but not everything. In fact, the film invites you to watch it again and again and again. Because cinema at its very best: compelling, creative in form, slightly intellectual, slightly literary, but not arrogant, personal, technically flawless, beautifully filmed but never too thick on top, a beautifully balanced and surprising soundtrack and in a subtle way with a very personal style. With this title and the many good titles from recent years such as ‘Le scaphandre et le papillon’ or ‘Il ya longtemps que je t’aime’, to name but a few, France proves once again that it can play a leading role in the international cinema world.

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