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A Christmas Tale (The Criterion Collection)

3.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In Arnaud Desplechin's beguiling A CHRISTMAS TALE (Un Conte de No'l), Catherine Deneuve brings her legendary poise to the role of Junon, matriarch of the troubled Vuillard family, who come together at Christmas after she learns she needs a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative. That simple family reunion setup, however, can't begin to describe the unpredictable, emotionally volatile experience of this film, an inventive, magical drama that's equal parts merriment and melancholy. Unrequited childhood loves and blinding grudges, brutal outbursts and sudden slapstick, music, movies, and poetry, A CHRISTMAS TALE ties it all together in a marvelously messy package.

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer
L'aimee: Desplechin's 2007 documentary
New documentary featuring interviews with Desplechin and actors
Original theatrical trailers
New and improved English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Lopate

Product Details

  • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Anne Consigny, Mathieu Amalric, Melvil Poupaud
  • Directors: Arnaud Desplechin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: December 1, 2009
  • Run Time: 152 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002M36R28
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,216 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A Christmas Tale (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric M. Eiserloh on October 18, 2009
Format: Blu-ray
This one is not for everyone. Most people will probably not only have trouble with its length, but its style, as well. Both as wild as it is imaginative, Christmas Tale is like a post-modern jazz score, mixing elements from a variety of cinematic styles that are jarring (at times), but always interesting to behold. As long as the film is, it always keeps moving and changing before our very eyes. What makes its odd stylistic combinations work is the compelling depths of its explorations into family and the bonds the unite, or divide us. Like and The Royal Tennenbaums, with a nouvelle vague twist, the film is not only full of odd combinations of image and music, but seems to jump from one film to another from scene to scene, as if each character or emotional quality (from light comedy to serious drama) were each receiving its own rendering. At times, the characters turn and speak directly to the camera. The filmmaker also intercedes by providing chapter headings and keyhole views, but, somehow, what could have become a cacophony of chaos, turns into a wonderment of cinema that any real cinephile will be amazed to behold and want to experience again....
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Format: DVD
[4.5 stars] It may be a mistake to call this a "dysfunctional family Christmas movie." The individuals of the Vuillard family have, in fact, all submitted themselves to the precise roles that will allow the family to function. And that is the real problem. Each has to contort himself, at times almost beyond human recognition, in order for things to make a certain sort of sense. There is distance in how they address each other: no "maman", no "papa", just first names all around. The system that allows this family to function even includes "Anatole," an imaginary wolf that lives in the basement. It is a well-honed system.

The mother, father, three siblings, assorted cousins and spouses that populate this family tree all have a psychic tie to a withered root, namely the firstborn son, Joseph, who died of a rare cancer at age six. Elizabeth, the oldest surviving child, complains of a grief that has no apparent source. She is the type of person we all have met at some time in our lives, someone whose main grievance is that she feels herself to be inadequately aggrieved. She completely surrenders herself to the false martyrdom of self-pity, willingly clutching each grudge to her bosom, even as it drains her of life and poisons everyone around her.

We see how Henri, the middle child, becomes Elizabeth's chosen victim, and Ivan, the youngest, tries to mollify everyone. All of this has a decidedly theatrical effect. The family members are depicted as performers just as much as the Ekdahls are in Fanny and Alexander (Special Edition Five-Disc Set) - Criterion Collection, with whose first 90 minutes A CHRISTMAS TALE bears more than a passing resemblance.
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French director Arnaud Desplechin's film works as one of the best mult-layered movies of the genre, which in many respects takes its conventions and turns them on their head. Not your feel good, holiday coming home movie but one which inverts and mischievously perverts viewer expectations and instead dares to substitute real people for the usual suspects. The first rate acting (the legendary Catherine Deneuve and the not as well known but no less talented Desplechin actors Mathieu Almaric and Emmanuelle Devos) takes a conventional genre situation - mother (Denueve) suffers from cancer and needs a bone marrow transplant - and explores the generational conflicts that afflict this family and provocatively and evocatively deals with the issues of mother love; forgiveness; sibling rivalry; grief for thwarted dreams and life changing losses, and even fidelity itself. For film lovers who enjoy characters in unconventional situations, this film will continue to reward upon future viewings. Those requiring conventional Hollywood plotting and endings should probably look elsewhere. I would add that the director is one of the best working today. One of the best films of 2008.
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This film is always entertaining and inventive, though its pacing does provide a few pauses in action to let you check in with yourself about what you've just seen. The variety of creative devices put successfully into play in here hint at genius (Literature, Music: Classical, Jazz, Hip-Hop, and Art & Animation). The acting performances are natural and the characters heartbreaking. Their flaws are at once towering and human. I'm a student of film and believe in its potential to teach us something of who we are as we bump into each other in this life. This one teaches from start to finish in some unexpected ways.

It's a visual encounter of lyrical dimensions. And in typical French fashion, its romantic and heartbreaking, yet unsentimental. Admitting my bias for Holiday films, and their ability display family dysfunction not disposed to constructive resolution, this is a film that goes beyond the neurosis and reveals something surprising--plain old good will in some seemingly irredeemable people. Our families often mess us up, but they also have the power to help us heal and bloom from, despite, and because of their influences. This film recognizes that, and makes not excuses for it. This film is on my top 25 films list.
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