A Christmas Tale

I think I liked this
as much as I did because it’s so much like a large
family-saga novel. You can get a review about how good the
acting, directing, costumes, and set decoration are lots
of places.

I’m going to tell you a story about the soundtrack, because I
think it illustrates how a good movie can be both better and
worse than a good novel.

One thing mentioned in the movie, which probably would be
expanded on at more length in a novel, is how musical the family
is, and how they all play instruments. The playing is only demonstrated
occasionally in the movie, but there is a lot of listening to a wide variety of
recorded music.

In one scene, there’s a background that sounds like Christmas
carols in English. When I watched the credits, it turned out to be English
Village Carols
, recorded live in the pubs around Sheffield,
England, where there’s an active tradition going back several
hundred years of singing carols in the pubs.

A friend of mine owns that CD, and he tells the story that he
was listening to it when a friend came over. The friend said,
“That sounds like a bunch of drunks singing Christmas carols.”

And then she looked at the liner notes, and exclaimed, “It
is a bunch of drunks singing Christmas carols!”

My point is that a novel would have a lot more explanation of
how some member of this elegant French family happened to be
interested in this off-the-beaten-track genre of music, and it
might well be part of the description of the various kinds of
tension between the various family members. But you wouldn’t
have anything like as much idea of what the music actually
sounded like.

I’d say this is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It
isn’t a typical Christmas movie, but it isn’t as depressing at
the one-sentence plot summary (A mother dying of liver cancer
(played by Catherine DeNeuve) celebrates Christmas with her family) would imply, either, so you might
enjoy it for Christmas viewing.


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