A CHRISTMAS TALE (UN CONTE DE NOËL) (Arnaud Desplechin, 2008)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Francesca Beale Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Saturday, March 12, 8:00, and Wednesday, March 16, 7:00
Series runs March 11-17
One of the best films of 2008, A Christmas Tale is yet another extraordinary work from French post-New Wave filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin (La Sentinelle, Esther Kahn). Desplechin, who examined family dysfunction in the masterful Kings and Queen (one of the best films of 2006), brings back much of the same cast for A Christmas Tale. Catherine Deneuve stars as Junon, the family matriarch who has just discovered she has leukemia and is in need of a bone-marrow transplant. Although it is rare for children to donate bone marrow to their mother (or grandmother), Junon insists that they all take the test to see if they are compatible. Soon they gather at Junon and Abel’s (Jean-Paul Roussilon) house for the holidays: oldest daughter Elizabeth (Anne Consigny), a dark and depressed woman whose teenage son, Paul (Emile Berling), has been institutionalized with mental problems and whose husband, Claude (Hippolyte Girardot), is rarely home; Ivan (Melvil Poupaud), the youngest son, a carefree sort married to Sylvia (Chiara Mastroianni, Deneuve’s real-life daughter), whom Junon strongly distrusts; and black sheep Henri (Mathieu Amalric), the middle child who was initially conceived primarily to save Abel and Junon’s first son, Joseph, who ended up dying of the same leukemia that Junon has contracted. Henri, who shows up with a new girlfriend, the very direct Faunia (Emmanuelle Devos), is a philandering ne’er-do-well who is deeply estranged from Elizabeth and not close with his mother, leading to much strife as Christmas — and a possible transplant — nears. Desplechin, who wrote the script with playwright and director Emmanuel Bourdieu, once again has created powerful, realistic characters portrayed marvelously by his extremely talented cast; despite the family’s massive dysfunction, you’ll feel that even spending more than two and a half hours with them is not enough. A Christmas Tale is screening March 12 & 16 in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “Golden Days: The Films of Arnaud Desplechin,” a weeklong retrospective celebrating the March 18 release of his latest film, My Golden Days. Running March 11-17, the festival features such other films as My Sex Life . . . or How I Got into an Argument, La vie des morts (which Desplechin will introduce on March 15), Kings and Queen (which will be followed by a Q&A with the director on March 17), and My Golden Days (with Desplechin on hand for Q&As after screenings on March 15 & 18).