Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

aka - Conte De Noel, Un
France 2008
Directed by
Arnaud Desplechin
150 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Christmas Tale, A

If you liked Thomas Vinterberg’s 1998 film, Festen, then Arnaud Desplechin’s entry into the Dysfunctional Family Stakes will probably please.

The Vuillard family, which is haunted by the death of the eldest child many years previously at the age of six, is getting together for what might be their last Christmas together. Junon (Catherine Deneuve) has been diagnosed with cancer. She also has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. She is of a rare blood type but two of her relatives are compatible: her black sheep son, Henri (Mathieu Amalric), with whom she has never been close and her grandson, Paul (Emile Berling) who is suffering from mental problems. Her family are fighting with each other and she’s not sure it’s all worth the trouble.

Desplechin manages to cram enough material into his film to occupy a handful of simpler efforts and although the scenario is intricate and his telling of it somewhat eclectic it does not feel false (bar perhaps a kind of subplot involving Junon’s nephew, Simon, and his longstanding love for his cousin’s wife). This is thanks to the strong script which Desplechin co-wrote with Emmanuel Bourdieu and the fine performances from the ensemble cast with Deneuve, as usual, giving a flawless performance as the cold-hearted matriarch.

The French have a considerable body of films devoted to the complex dynamics of the extended  family (one of first I saw was Jean Charles Tacchella’s Cousin, Cousine, 1975. like this also a reunion film) and what is particularly intriguing is the way that they accept difference, disagreement and disruption as matter of fact rather than in the English manner, shameful aberrance. Un Conte De Noël is a particularly good exemplification of this.

FYI: Chiara Mastroianni who plays Junon's daughter-in-law Sylvia, is Deneuve's real-life daughter with Marcello Mastroianni.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst