Friday 16th December 2016
It’s A Wonderful Life
‘Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings’ – I doubt there would be a shortage of wings in heaven if they were handed out every time somebody named “It’s A Wonderful Life” as their favourite Christmas movie. I just put it first so we can swiftly move on. Charming, empathetic, lucidly poetic and completely timeless, it could hardly be avoided in anyone’s top 5 Christmas movies.
Eyes Wide Shut
Bookended by scenes in a Christmas party and a toy store strewn luxuriously with festive decoration, it is nonetheless easy to forget that Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” is a film set during the December Christmas period. Any conventional tropes you may associate with Christmas, particularly any wistful notions of Virgin mothers, are dispelled here by 159 minutes of unsettling eroticism and vice. But the contemporary materiality and excess of the winter’s festivity is rather harmonious with the careless affluence and emotional distance of the movie’s central characters. The Christmas trees and fairy lights are omnipresent on screen, and the familiar, surreally magical ‘Christmas feeling’ is fundamental to the bizarre darkness of this film.
Ma nuit chez Maud
“Ma nuit chez Maud” is that surprisingly rare, perhaps singular, example of a Christmas film with ideas about Christianity and religious faith at its heart. With its lengthy, philosophically opaque screenplay centred around Pascal’s Wager, in many ways it is more theatrical than cinematic – but Éric Rohmer’s visual storytelling is as intricately arranged as his writing, portraying brilliantly the struggles of its central character as his faith to God becomes intertwined with his indecisive faith to women, and like “Eyes Wide Shut” the Christmas setting of the film is fundamental to the unravelling of the protagonist’s temptation into promiscuity.
Set in a colourfully nondescript and superficial American suburb, Tim Burton approaches the materiality and frivolousness of the Christmas period with far more affection than Stanley Kubrick in this bittersweet and magically modern Gothic fairy tale. Ultimately, it is a surprisingly moving depiction of humanity, family and romance as it centres on a character deprived of all of these things from birth. Like the most timeless fairy tales it is as unsettling as it is comically sweet, as simple as it is evocative of profound moral and emotional ideas, and it will make you long for snow throughout this inevitably bleak and rainy winter.
Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas
I think most people have that one film they watch every Christmas, it’s just the time of year when we return to the same old songs, the same old people, we celebrate amidst the warm joy of the familiar. For me that film has been Disney’s “Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas”. A 1999 direct-to-video feature, its not a popular choice – but then it was my parent’s choice, not mine. The critical and commercial reception doesn’t appear to be overly kind, and I haven’t returned to it since before my teenage years, but the various stories this animated anthology depicts, stories always returning to the importance of family, are nonetheless imprinted like snowy, Goofy-shaped footprints in my occasionally sentimental memory.