A Christmas Tale

( 5 )

Overview

The devastating reverberations of a profound tragedy echo through generations of a long-suffering French family in this emotional family drama from director Arnaud Desplechin. When Abel and his wife, Junon, started a family, it seemed like the seeds of true happiness had been planted. But while their daughter, Elizabeth, was healthy from the day she was born, things quickly turned dark when her brother Joseph was diagnosed with a rare and deadly genetic condition. Joseph's only hope for survival was a bone marrow...
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Blu-ray (Special Edition / Wide Screen / Subtitled)
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Overview

The devastating reverberations of a profound tragedy echo through generations of a long-suffering French family in this emotional family drama from director Arnaud Desplechin. When Abel and his wife, Junon, started a family, it seemed like the seeds of true happiness had been planted. But while their daughter, Elizabeth, was healthy from the day she was born, things quickly turned dark when her brother Joseph was diagnosed with a rare and deadly genetic condition. Joseph's only hope for survival was a bone marrow transplant, but Abel, Junon, and Elizabeth were all incompatible. In one last, desperate chance to save their son's life, Abel and Junon conceived a third child. But not even little Henri could save his ailing brother's life. Joseph died at the age of seven, and neither his siblings nor his parents have ever found the strength to recover. Years later, family relations have deteriorated beyond the point of repair; the tensions between family matriarch Elizabeth and her cynical brother Henri finally culminating in a violent confrontation in which Elizabeth banishes her alcoholic brother and refuses him further contact with his troubled adolescent nephew, Paul.
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Special Features

L'aimée, Desplechin's 2007 documentary about the sale of his family home; Arnaud's Tale, a new 35-minute documentary featuring interviews with Desplechin and actors Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve; Original theatrical trailers; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by critic Phillip Lopate
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Leave it to the French to make a movie called A Christmas Tale that has little to do with Christmas. Don't take that as a criticism. A Christmas Tale is an intimate, involving, well-acted story about a dysfunctional family rallying around the illness of its matriarch, but anyone who watches it for some light holiday cheer -- mistaking it for either A Christmas Carol or A Christmas Story -- will be sorely disappointed. Arnaud Desplechin's film is most reminiscent of Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, as both films feature Mathieu Amalric and Anne Consigny, and both consider the strain on family in times of medical crisis. Desplechin's script, which he co-wrote with Emmanuel Bourdieu, allows ample time 150 minutes to explore this strain, consisting of a succession of talking-head scenes that draw out the nuances in these characters' relationships. Again, not a criticism. Desplechin recognizes that family drama carries more weight when the audience has an emotional investment in the characters, so what might seem like flab in a Hollywood film instead provides useful texture as the story builds toward its climax. Catherine Deneuve does her usual fine work as the matriarch -- a victim of her illness, but hardly innocent. The standouts, however, are Amalric and Consigny, as the siblings whose deep wounds have festered to the point of mutual disassociation. Amalric, who had to act with one eye in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is equally memorable given free reign of his emotions, playing the family's black sheep, while Consigny projects a lacerating coldness that makes the moral high ground seem just as unforgivable. Desplechin contributes a wonderful visual playfulness, using puppets, for example, to cover the narrative exposition of the family's history. A Christmas Tale is quite a gift, whether received in December or otherwise.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 12/1/2009
  • UPC: 715515049016
  • Original Release: 2008
  • Rating:

  • Source: Criterion
  • Region Code: A
  • Presentation: Special Edition / Wide Screen / Subtitled
  • Time: 2:32:00
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 7,837

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Catherine Deneuve Junon, Junon Vuillard
Jean-Paul Roussillon Abel, Abel Vuillard
Anne Consigny Elizabeth
Mathieu Amalric Henri
Melvil Poupaud Ivan
Hippolyte Girardot Claude
Emmanuelle Devos Faunia
Chiara Mastroianni Sylvia
Laurent Capelluto Simon
Emile Berling Paul
Thomas Obled Basile
Clément Obled Baptiste
Françoise Bertin Rosaimée
Samir Guesmi Spatafora
Azize Kabouche Dr. Zraïdi
Technical Credits
Arnaud Desplechin Director, Screenwriter
Sylvie Aid Makeup
Dan Bevan Production Designer
Emmanuel Bourdieu Screenwriter
Laurence Briaud Editor
Nicolas Cantin Sound/Sound Designer
Pascal Caucheteux Producer
Éric Gautier Cinematographer
Gregoire Hetzel Score Composer
Jean-Pierre Laforce Sound Mixer
Sylvain Malbrant Sound/Sound Designer
Nathalie Raoul Costumes/Costume Designer
Gabriele Roux Asst. Director
Stephane Touitou Casting
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

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(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Wonderful film. Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve were fantastic.

    "Dysfunctional Family Drama" is a term that is thrown around a lot among the independent world of film, and negatively, at least to me, describes the film as you're about to see as a pretentious piece of work with wildly over-written 'real world' characters with deep and dark secrets. I wouldn't dare say "A Christmas Tale" is about a dysfunctional family, even though the basic idea of the this family (The Vuilard's) coming together and sort of reuniting with each other over a Christmas weekend would definitely seem to fit that very description.

    It's because of the more grounded less abstract but still sometimes unpredictable nature of these characters that lifts the film above the cliches and gives it a breath of fresh air. Of course brothers and sisters don't get along from past issues we're sometimes not given answers to. Of course there are scenes of high intensity, sometimes secrets are revealed, mostly they are not. I loved that about this film, a lot of issues are brought up, but few things are resolved. We're just sprinkled with past family history and we're left to decide to love or hate a character, but that very idea makes us connect with the characters and understand certain aspects of them. Mathieu Amalric -- while not really the central character, that belongs to the Mother, played by the still beautiful Catherine Deneuve -- was the best part of this film. Mathieu has a face that invites suspicion of a crazy history. You're not always sure what your final judgment is about his character in the story, you'll find yourself thinking he's a dirty scumbag one moment and then think he's the most misunderstood person the next.

    Watching this film I was struck with how smooth, simple and poetic the photography was. It felt like the work of Robert Elswit, which is only ironic because several sequences felt like something Robert Altman would have put together. One of the Best, if not the Best film to come out of 2008.

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    Posted November 20, 2011

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    Posted July 17, 2010

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    Posted July 17, 2010

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    Posted July 21, 2010

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews