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The Justin Newbould Memorial Christmas Chaos

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Film: Tokyo Godfathers
Chosen by: RIPPA

"Okay - my pick is Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Though I am positive you are going to tell me that someone already picked it"

Reviewed by: Execproducer
 
Tokyo Godfathers Is an anime by Satoshi Kon based upon the Three Godfathers story that had previously been adapted to film six times including three silent films and, most famously, a John Ford-directed John Wayne film. Funny that I should draw it as I had considered picking 3 Godfathers for the Chaos. Where that films 'heroes' are outlaws, Tokyo Godfathers introduces us to three homeless souls that take up a quest to reunite a baby girl they find in the trash on Christmas Day, with the mother that abandoned her. We meet Gin, an alcoholic gambler who abandoned his family, Hana, a Trans woman that drifted to the streets after the death of her boyfriend, and Miyuki, a runaway teen.  Hana names the baby Kiyoko, a name that coincidentally will come up again.
 
In fact, the coincidences pile on top of each other as along the way the three will meet people they are connected to or strangers whose situations mirror their own. As they go along, their backstories slowly unfold and we see why this group had somehow formed a family. A very volatile family that has no issues attacking one another with slurs and physical violence. Violence is plentiful. It takes place in flashbacks of former lives, at Yakuza weddings, in a park perpetrated by street punks, in random accidents, and during the climatic sequence where Gin discovers his inner action hero. 
 
But there's comedy too! Like Hana often being inspired to improvise a Haiku. Or Miyuki and a bunch of feral cats reacting in unison to Gin's suggestion of grilled kitty. Or a badly beaten Gin meeting his Fairy Godmother in an alley. There is also a scene that references 3 Godfathers desert trek. As the three walk in single file by snow covered train tracks, Hana collapses dramatically and tells Gin and Miyuki to take Kiyoko and go on without her.
 
So, I'm a pretty big Japanese cinema buff but this is my first anime. Unless you count Speed Racer cartoons from 40 years ago. I enjoyed it immensely. I doubt I'll take a deep dive into the genre, but I'll probably check out some more of Kon's stuff. His backgrounds are pretty fucking amazing.
 
Big thumbs up.
 
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First - I suck, but you already knew that.

2nd - I swear I'll get this done by tomorrow.  I just bought a huge pack of tissues from Costco.  I'm ready.

 

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12 minutes ago, CSC said:

2nd - I swear I'll get this done by tomorrow.  I just bought a huge pack of tissues from Costco.  I'm ready.

Now I am really concerned what movie you got....

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They ARE cool touch ...

refreshing!

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Aaaah feels right at home like hour 3 of the family Christmas party where everyone's had a few too many and the inappropriate jokes start flying.

Anyways ... a little further explanation of my pick of Christmas with the Kranks is that "Free Frosty!" has become the mantra in my family to shame anyone who hasn't gotten their decorations up in the timely manner, or obviously half-assed it that year.  You haven't lived until you've chanted that at family so insistently that they go grab Christmas boxes from the garage to throw out more decorations to make it stop.  

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Stocking Stuffer Bonus Review!!!!

 
Picked and reviewed by driver
 
 

Xmas Special Review
Sanford & Son, "Ebenezer Sanford", originally aired 12/12/75
I am a sucker for Redd Foxx and A Christmas Carol, so this was a natural. 
The episode opens with Lamont griping at Fred for not having the inventory done. Aunt Esther shows up to a pop from the crowd that would've made The Fonz a bit envious. The insults between  Esther and Fred were always a highlight of an episode and there  seemed to be insults in every episode in which the two shared a scene.
A young man named Ronnie knocks on the door looking for a job so that he can earn $10 so he can buy Christmas presents. And for the $10 he agrees to paint the house, do the inventory and cleaning the yard. I never knew Fred to be a shrewd negotiator, guess I was wrong.

Lamont calls Fred a Scrooge and that it's like Christmas Carol. Fred replies "What the Dickens are you talking about?" Tie that in with Rollo offering Fred a Christmas present and Fred tying it all together stating that "No one wants you here in the future or the past!"
Fred lies down for a nap and the story kicks into high gear. There is a knock at the door and Lamont comes through the door as "Ghost Of Christmas Past" clad in rags and chains. He takes Fred into the past and to his childhood home in St. Louis.  Here we get to see Fred as a teenager and even then he had a knack for wheeling and dealing and dreamed of being a millionaire junk dealer.
Lamont shows up again, this time as Ghost Of Christmas Present and keeps repeating "Come with me!" and there is a lot of reverb on his voice. We see a scene in Aunt Esther's apartment where all of Fred's friends at gathered for a holiday party. Here we see Esther as a warm and gracious hostess until she points out to Bubba how Fred is always insulting him. Again Fred wants to be taken away because he's become overcome with emotion or about as emotional as we ever got to see him.

Back to the house and this time Lamont is dressed as an astronaut and Fred asks him if he is the "Spirit of Liberace".  Again more "Come With Me" and "Follow Me" with more reverb on the voice. We see Fred sitting alone in a chair and Fred crying to Lamont Future "I DON'T LIKE HIM! I DON'T LIKE HIM!"
Back to the house and Fred is woke up by Ronnie. Fred gives him $20 instead of agreed upon $10. Ronnie returns with his parents and they thank him for the money he gave their son as well as the gifts(that were meant for Lamont) he sent with Ronnie for them. 
The final scene is a repeat of the party at Esther's, this time with Fred and Lamont and Fred singing "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire". 
A nice little diversion if there ever was one. 

fcc38a2583523f26317bac2c49372d99--sanfor

 
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Film: Sint (Saint)
Chosen by: nate

"I guess it could be argued that "Sint" is not a Christmas movie, occurring as it does on December 5th (Krampusnacht).  However, it does feature Santa Claus, so you see the position I'm in.

I like the spate of films that came out in the latter part of 2000-2010, which found rather creative ways to depict Santa Claus as a villainous antagonist (like “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale”).  “Sint” plays, mercifully, like a more serious “Santa’s Slay” (which means no one liners like “ho, ho … hoes”).  The movie mixes in a healthy mix of slaughter and laughter, and it times out at a crisp 85 min.  All in all, I enjoy it as a nice holiday distraction."

Reviewed by: driver
 

The film opens with title cars proclaiming "Your Parents Have Told You That He Doesn't Exist..."


Looks like this is going to be epic. The film is directed by Dick Maas(a quick Googly-Oogly-Ooo shows he directed a movie called "Amsterdamned". I vaguely remember seeing that previewed as a coming attraction on a movie I rented on VHS back in the late 80s/early 90s). We are treated to a scene of Saint Nicolas riding on a horse and surrounded by pikemen as one of them nails a proclamation stating that during the next full moon the town must provide the following: gold, silver, pork, fur, virgins, et al. 
While the proclamation is nailed to the door, the pikemen break into homes and murder people. Looks like Saint Nick ain't too jolly after all.  As a crowd gathers a man grabs the proclamation and defiantly sets it ablaze. Shit just got real and its about to get a lot realer. Oh yeah it got more realsier as Ol' Saint Nick meets his demise...but I doubt we've seen the last of him.

Flash forward to 1968 AD to a quaint farm house in the Dutch countryside where siblings are singing Christmas carols as father sits in his recliner and mother toils in the kitchen.  The family gets slaughtered/snatched up the chimney and only Goert, the eldest child, survives. Before finding his family missing/dead he sees Saint Nick on his horse on the roof of his house.


Flash forward again(this time to "Present Day Amsterdam") and a college class exchanging gifts(including sex toys!! Guess they knew each others boundaries). A guy named Frank opens a huge box containing a pair of panties while his girl friend, Sophie, looks on. Uh oh looks like Franky was a bad boy, Sophie found out and this is her way of breaking up with him. Sure as shit beats a text message.


According to legend St. Nick comes for you on December 5 when there's a full moon. We get a few conversations about St. Nick and a dildo for his horse. Oh fuck it, I'm gonna go all in and just go with it.
Suddenly we meet a character named Goert, who looks like a Dutch Brendan Gleeson. He's a cop on the edge and proves it by shooting a box of wine sitting on his desk. That'll show that dirty vino. Goert gets chewed out by his boss, Dutch Kevin Tighe. Since he was the lone survivor of the '68 massacre it's easy to understand why he has such a chip on his shoulder against Saint Nick.


Frank and his friends dress up as Saint Nick and the Black Petes and go off to a Sinterklaas celebration. Dressing as Black Pete involves wearing black face. Those wacky Dutch. 
One of the Black Petes gets greeted by an army of REAL Black Petes. They're back, they're angry and they're ready to kill. Things get a little attacky as Frank The Hero escapes in his Porsche and dispatches a few of the Black Petes before he gets arrested for murdering Sophie and her little brother.Franks gets interrogated and says the real Saint Nick killed Sophie. Detective Goert hears this. Something tells me we'll be seeing them as a team. Just a guess though. Cut to a scene of Goert's apartment and it becomes really apparent that he has a slight fixation on Saint Nick.


Saint Nick shows up at a hospital and rides into a children's ward. At first the little tykes are happy to see him and quickly change their minds and cover their heads. Cut to a police chase with Saint Nick making his escape by riding over the rooftops. Cut to Nick's dead horse falling on top of a police car containing Frank The Hero. Turns out the pony ain't dead after all.  I guess undead is probably a better choice of words.And we get our Frank The Hero/Dutch Brendan Gleeson team up. DBG tells FTH "bullets won't kill him but fire will!" I don't think that will come into play at all later on. I might be wrong, I may be right. Only time will tell.


As Goert and Frank cruise the canals in Goert's boat he tells Frank of his plan to end Saint Nick once and for all by blowing up his boat precisely at midnight when Saint Nick, his horse, The Black Pete Order and other assorted henchmen will be on said boat. I have no idea whether or not the BPO is broken down into Red & Black factions. They blow up the boat. The next day a police detective meets with the mayor and the mayor says to lower the number of dead from 300 to a more "acceptable number".
I really liked this movie. It kept me entertained and that is the most important thing of all. There is a bit of gore here and there and some interesting kills.

On a scale of one to ten Christmas stockings I am giving this one a ten. Great fun movie.

 

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Hey, you popped in just in time!

 

Film: The Great Rupert
Chosen by: execproducer

"George Pal's first foray into live action. Starring Terry Moore, fresh off of Mighty Joe Young and two years away from her career peak in her Oscar nominated role for Come Back, Little Sheba and the great Jimmy Durante. Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.  'nuff said."

Reviewed by: nate
 

The Great Rupert

 

(USA, 1950; Passed)

 

Comedy/Family

 

George Pal Productions; 87 min

 

Director: Irving Pichel

 

Starring: Jimmy Durante; Terry Moore; Tom Drake; Frank Orth; Sara Haden; a squirrel

 

Alternate Titles: A Christmas Wish 

 

Tagline: “He’s not just squirrelin’ around!”

 

Actual quote: “There’s not a lot of work for a human pyramid.”

 

I went into this movie cold, only reading one or two summaries about what to expect.  I knew it starred Jimmy Durante, and I knew that Rupert was a “squirrel”, the quotation marks meant to denote that Rupert was animated via George Pal’s “Puppetoons” style.  Armed with this info, and a handful of images of a cartoon squirrel and Durante and a real squirrel playing piano together, I revved this movie up.

 

I blame the pain medicine from my knee surgery for all that happened next.  An elderly man, who we learn is a former lion tamer, is training a squirrel to dance a jig while dressed in a kilt (the squirrel is dressed in a kilt, not the trainer).  The squirrel – Rupert – looks very much like a Taxidermy 101 thesis project.  Animated via stop-motion, he moves dutifully but robotically, and this is jarring when compared to the later scenes where the live-action squirrel runs and climbs and does other squirrel things in a very squirrel manner.  While the squirrel trainer is perfecting his act, a man and woman walk into his apartment, the woman looking particularly aghast on arrival, as if she’s walked in on the old man tugging one out to a centerfold of Evelyn Ankers or some shit.  The old lion tamer shows off his act with Rupert, but the man (a talent agent of some sort) balks at this, under the belief that a dancing zombie squirrel is by no means an attraction worth investing in.

 

After the old man is evicted from his home and he releases the squirrel into the wild (which ordinarily would mean certain death for a trained and domesticated animal), Rupert inexplicably returns to the old man’s former apartment.  Now, in a rapid clip: Jimmy Durante and his wife and daughter (the Amendola trio, a Vaudeville human pyramid act of which Jimmy is the patriarch) show up recently unemployed, and they discover that the apartment vacated by Rupert’s trained is vacant; while they apply for it, the landlord of the apartment begins to get checks in the mail for $1500 per week, due to the profits from a mine he invested in prior to the movie’s proceedings; mistrustful of banks, the landlord decides to stow his cash in a hole in the wall that his home shares with the apartment where the Amendola’s live; and, the landlord’s son begins to fall in love with young daughter Amendola, who also happens to be courted by a New York talent agent (the aforementioned gent that walked in on Rupert’s training session).  This is fucking 1950s “American Beauty,” minus the plastic bag and nigh-pedophilia.

 

Momma Amedola, woman of devout faith that she is, prays for a miracle, specifically on a Thursday at 1:00pm.  Suddenly, cash – say, $1500 of it – rains down onto her.  She attributes this act to the most holy, but actually it’s Rupert, living in the wall between the renters and the landlord.  The scenes of Rupert dutifully shoving cash out of his makeshift home just as the landlord is shoving it in made for some chuckles, once my opiate-addled brain started the Rick-James-via-Dave-Chappelle mantra of “Fuck yo’ cash, -----, fuck yo’ cash!”

 

So, weeks of the Rupert-managed investments into the Amendola’s lifestyles go by.  And this is something I noticed: As far as the “Christmas” part of this film, “Christmas” actually takes up very little of the narrative.  But, fuck it, it’s as much of a Christmas movie as “Die Hard” is, in my heart, and “Die Hard” is Christmas as a motherfucker.  What bothered me more, though, was when I noticed that there’s very little actual interaction between Rupert and the Amendolas.  Actually, there’s no interaction between Rupert and anyone, except his trainer.  The suggestion on the poster that Jimmy Durante would be singing to a squirrel playing back-up piano?  Nope.  The suggestion of some of the synopses I read, that Rupert and the Amendolas would become fast pals?  Nope.  Throughout the film, Momma Amendola prays to God on Thursday at 1pm, and Rupert starts shoving the landlord’s cash at her (probably to make her shut up).  Now, during this time, there’s a love triangle between the good daughter Amendola and the landlord’s son and the big time talent scout … but fuck all that; typical B&W movie love triangle fare.

 

I found myself more interested in the obvious – but unaddressed, by the movie – commentary on wealth and distribution.  Once Amendola gets his money flow, he starts investing in local businesses, to the point where basically EVERY local business is a “ [surname] & Amendola” company.  The landlord is amazed, but this is also a guy who hasn’t missed his squirrelled away cash (HAW!!), because he hasn’t checked on it.  If he had been investing it all this time, as Amendola has been doing, he’d be making more money than the meager $1500/week checks he’s been getting in the mail …

 

… Until that fateful day that the mine dried up, and the landlord receives a letter that he’s to receive no more weekly checks.  And shitty luck there, because the FBI, IRS, and local authorities have been tipped to the Amendola fortune.  Not to worry, says Jimmy Durante; Momma Amendola always prays to God every Thursday at 1:00pm, and, every Thursday, He delivers.  The lawmen are not devout Christians, so they doubt this bullshit, so the challenge is set: They show up on a Thursday at 1pm, and if you’ve ever watched a movie, you can guess what happens.  That’s right: Rupert can catch a goddamn nap for a change, without green paper being jabbed in his ass. Jimmy’s about to get sent to stir, when – and I apologize for forgetting the circumstances about this part – the house and adjacent apartment catch on fire.  Firefighters run in, hoses out, until the fire is out.  Everyone made it out … except for one lone, tiny squirrel, who may have succumbed to smoke inhalHOLY SHIT, he suddenly wakes up and, instead of going for the eyes of everyone in paw’s distance, he scampers off into the night.  While everyone outside the burnt-out husk of a residence is evaluating the last few months’ worth of circumstances, they begin to realize what that motherfucking squirrel was doing with the landlord’s money, and the agents of the IRS, FBI, and local law enforcement – being the dutiful representatives of government infrastructure that they are – say, “Fuuuck, the paperwork on this is going to be brutal,” play a quick game of “1-2-3-Not It,” and they just back away slowly.

 

Oh, and young daughter Amendola sold a piece of music that was written by the landlord’s son – a piece written for tuba and harp, what the actual fuck? – to the agent she was dating.  And Rupert reunited with his trainer from the first five minutes of the movie, only now he’s some national superstar attraction playing to sold out crowds across the country.

 

The reason my review is late actually plays into an aspect of this movie: Having had the knee surgery (disclaimer: pain pills), I got this wild hair to do a review in the style of a Rick Trembles “Motion Picture Purgatory”comic.  I dummied up a layout, drew the header, the central image (a toon squirrel of course), little dollar bills falling over the panels, then, for a four panel set up … I went blank.  I had no idea what four images I wanted to pick out to summarize this film, there was SO MUCH going on.  Like I mentioned, there was a midway point after the Amendolas started getting their money where I suddenly realized, “There’s no way it’s Christmas anymore!”

 

Also, Rosalinda (young daughter Amendola) at times came off like a scheming asshole.  Like, when she sells the piece of music that her other boyfriend wrote, you wonder what her fucking game is.  And there’s a scene where she and the talent scout significant other confront the same other boyfriend after he takes a job as a soda jerk, and she fucks with him, like, “Oh hey, Pete, I never thought I’d see you working, I thought you always said you’d never want to work a real job, still playing the tuba? …” Argh, you asshole!

 

 

But, actually, I liked it.  I want to watch it with my 10yo, but my only fear is that she would end up not giving two shits about black & white family holiday dramedy featuring a squirrel moving like it’s in mid-rigor.  Ha-CHACHACHA!

 

 

 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Execproducer said:

Also, Rosalinda (young daughter Amendola) at times came off like a scheming asshole.  Like, when she sells the piece of music that her other boyfriend wrote, you wonder what her fucking game is.  And there’s a scene where she and the talent scout significant other confront the same other boyfriend after he takes a job as a soda jerk, and she fucks with him, like, “Oh hey, Pete, I never thought I’d see you working, I thought you always said you’d never want to work a real job, still playing the tuba? …” Argh, you asshole!

I think it was pretty clear she was dating the agent to advance Pete's interests. Perhaps your drug-addled state didn't allow you to see that.

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1 hour ago, nate said:

Your take on this was magnifico!

I tried my best.

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14 hours ago, Execproducer said:

I think it was pretty clear she was dating the agent to advance Pete's interests. Perhaps your drug-addled state didn't allow you to see that.

I totally did not until later when they reunited at the end.  I thought it was kinda skeevy, how she gave the piece to the agent and explained how she used a man's name for legitimacy.  I was like, "What the fuck Rosalinda!!!" And then when she was kind of a dick to Pete at the soda shoppe.

Incidentally, I did end up watching it with my daughter, and she found it to be a nice film.  So this may be a Christmas movie tradition for us.  Thanks for that.

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Stocking Stuffer Bonus Review!!!!

 
Picked and reviewed by Ultimo Necro
 
 

The UK Office Christmas Special

 

The UK Office is a much heralded TV show, debuting in 2001, it was a satirical look at fly-on-the-wall documentaries that were very popular in the early 2000's. It is considered one of the most important UK comedies of the last 20 years and launched Ricky Gervais, MacKenzie Crook, Martin Freeman and Stephen Merchant, among others, onto the worldwide stage. It spawned countless similar shows and the US version of The Office took the UK series and ran with it, reaching new heights over the years.

Unbelievably it has been 15 years since the Office Christmas Special first aired. I remember watching them, probably around 10 years ago now, and enjoying at the time, however I was very curious to see how they had aged and went back for a revisit as part of my holiday watching plans.

A couple of years have passed since the original series and we find David Brent touring the UK minor-celebrity circuit alongside a Big Brother contestant and a guy from a banking ad. Gervais gives the usual over the top performance as Brent. His rocking into the Office singing “I'm coming up” by Pink and then cringeley delivering a Michael Jackson-esque “Shamon” at the end being a particular highlight. Ricky and his alter ego Brent are marmite, to use a British term, he is loved by some and hated by others. I think he's generally OK, but for me he was never the true star of the Office.

The true star was always Tim and Dawn's relationship, Tim, played by Martin Freeman, is the most sympathetic character in the show. He pined for Dawn for 2 series and it never worked out. As the Christmas party approaches it is announced that Dawn and her boyfriend Lee will be returning from the US to take part in a reunion of sorts.

The story all leads up to the Christmas Office Party and centers around the “will they / wont they” relationship. The chemistry between Tim and Dawn is great as they have fun making a fool of new office manager Gareth. David Brent has his own romantic interest, after meeting a variety of ever decreasing quality ladies via dating sites, he gives up all hope before meeting someone just in time for the party, allowing him to finally get one over on his old bosses.

The Christmas Party may also be the most accurate representation of an office party I have ever seen. Like Tim says “you get thrown together with these people, but end up spending more time with them that you do your own family”. The party tunes, the drunkenness, the annoying office woman being shouted at by a drunk asshole, it truly has all the markings of a traditional office party.

Like all good Christmas TV shows, this comes with a warm ending and you wont be left disappointed. I really enjoyed the rewatch of this, and it was cool to see some well known faces at the start of their careers. The show doesn't age all that bad. You forget how much more serious it was played than the US version. I would recommend it, particularly part 2 to anyone looking for a good British comedy Christmas special.

 

office-uk-christmas-parties.jpg?itok=253dNZlG&timestamp=1481109180

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Stocking Stuffer Bonus Review!!!!

 
Suggested by: odessasteps
 
Reviewed by: Execproducer
 
 

 L’assassinat du Père Noël  (1941)  

Directed by: Christian-Jaque (Frenchie King)

Screenplay: Charles Spaak (La Grande Illusion

Cinematographer: Armand Thirard ( The Wages of Fear)

 

Scene: A village in the French Alps. A school house, in the shadow of the local church. 

A bell signals the end of the school day and the beginning of the holiday break. The school teacher, Villard, playfully scolds the children for their impatience to leave. He tells the older ones to be ready to meet during the upcoming  festivities. Stridently anti-clerical, he organizes a yearly march to counter the Christmas services. As the children leave down narrow streets, bordered by the snow-blanketed country-side, an open carriage comes racing into view and we see the next of many characters, the passenger  Baron Roland de La Faille , a prodigal son returning home after many years of seeking  love and adventure, coming back empty-handed. Next is Old Lady Michel. She shows up everywhere searching for her lost cat and dropping pearls of wisdom and craziness. The whereabouts of her cat, Mistou, is one of several secrets to be eventually revealed.

 The infamous film L’assassinat du Père Noël  (The Assassination of Father Christmas) is a story more character than plot-driven, the plot being simple enough. The central mystery concerns the theft of valuable church property, the St. Nicholas ring and a murder that quickly follows.  Among other characters quickly introduced are Old Man Cornusse, the local globe maker who yearly dresses as Father Christmas and visits the homes of the local children. Also his daughter Catherine, a doll-maker who goes through life in a near trance-like state. She barely eats or drinks and when she sleeps, she dreams she's asleep. She is pursued by the much older Villard. When he professes his love for her, she chides him that he does not prove it by playing guitar outside her window or riding by on horseback or carrying a sword to protect her. Cornusse worries what will happen to his daughter after he is gone and he has little to leave behind. 

The next important character we meet is the local druggist, Ricomet, who is summoned to the Baron's chateau. The Baron requests a drug for the treatment of leprosy, knowing that word will quickly spread and he will be left alone. The Baron's arrival coincides with the appearance of a mystery prowler who attacks the village priest in an early attempt to steal the ring. The would-be thief escapes up the church bell tower and jumps through a stained glass window to the snowy ground below leaving behind bloody shards of glass and a trail of footprints soon to disappear in the snowfall. Soon, with the helpful distraction of Villard's march, the heist will be successful and suspicion will fall on many, including the Baron and Old Man Cornusse.  But then Father Christmas is found dead in the snow....

With nary a magical or supernatural element, L’assassinat du Père Noël has the gloss of a fairy tale with a slight touch of horror. When we first see the Baron entering the village, he is disguised from head to toe much like the prowler. The interior of his 'chateau' could easily have doubled for a Universal Monster Movie castle. The villagers discuss storming the chateau to kill the Baron and end the threat of his 'plague'. Old Lady Michel, regarded by some as a witch, speaks in eerie monotones. Catherine, hearing the rumors of leprosy and knowing he will  be abandoned by his servants, goes to the chateau to offer her services to this very human Beast. The  reclusive Baron, touched by this gesture and charmed by this Beauty, kisses her on the forehead which appears to wake her from her walking trance and she finds herself in the presence of the Prince she has dreamed of all her life. Many years before, he would nightly pass by her house on horseback when returning home. Unbeknownst to him, young Catherine recognized the hoof beats and would not sleep until hearing them. In short order, he is dressing her like a Princess and agrees to meet her in town at the stroke of..uh..12:30. 

Anyway, all of this is tied up rather neatly with the somewhat obvious killer and thief caught and our fairy tale couple united. So why, you may ask, is this film infamous? It was the first release of Continental Films, the German funded official production house of the Vichy government. So is it laden with propaganda? Well, despite the fact that the blonde Baron, immaculately dressed and wearing a shiny black glove to supposedly hide the ravages of leprosy, might be a Nazi wet dream, there isn't a swastika in sight and no politics in that direction that I could detect, bearing in mind that I'm reading subtitles and not catching the nuances of the French language. What about in the direction of the Resistance? Some people certainly want to believe so and they find it wherever they look. They find it in Father Christmas telling a bed-ridden child that, because he was willing to die for what he loved, he deserved to live and should stand up and step forward to accept his gift. They find it in the globes of Old Man Cornusse who, having never left his village, fills the children's heads with tales of adventures in other lands. The same tales that sent the Baron abroad to seek the love he would ultimately find in his homeland. They find it in the solidarity of the villagers, isolated by climate and scornful of outsiders and authority. They find it in Villard's classroom, with it's slogans on the wall ("Lost Time is Never Found") and his lesson that one can only rise in life through hard work or the imbecility of others.  One can assume that this first film allowed  would have been heavily vetted by Nazi censors and that any readings of Pro-Resistance messages are possibly overreach. 

It does invite discussion of the viability of art flourishing in the midst of evil. A less problematic discussion than one would have, for example, about the works of Leni Riefenstahl. Because this certainly is a work of art. It maintains it's fairy tale atmosphere throughout and makes maximum use of the  French Alp exteriors where it was filmed. L’assassinat du Père Noël  joins my annual list of Christmas movies that I will revisit again and again. 

A Tale of Two Actors: Robert Le Vigan played the role of the leftist school teacher Villard. An actor known for small roles, he was also a well-known fascist and collaborator. The Liberation of France would see him arrested and sentenced to 10 years hard labor. Paroled after 3 years, he fled the country to eventually die in Argentina, penniless, in 1972. Harry Baur, Old Man Cornusse/Father Christmas, was a well-known and respected star of stage and screen. Not a collaborator himself, he nevertheless had to live in that world. Denounced as a Jew by anti-Semitic newspapers, he was forced to produce documents proving his ancestry. He would be arrested in 1942, along with his wife, the actress Rika Radife, where he would endure months of torture. Later released, he would die shortly after from the effects of his treatment. 

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Image result for Lâassassinat du Père Noël

 

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He clearly didn’t have enough tissues

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Pere Noel was my original choice before realizing just difficult it might be to acquire (no streaming and a not cheap DVD). 

Hats off to Exec to still doing a review of it.

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Apparently it briefly streamed on Filmstruck last year. There is an all region Blu on Amazon, The Pathe release, that goes for about $35. I saw a German DVD that is unlikely to be all region or have English subs. Well worth the price for the Blu. 

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I don’t think I have seen it since a French film class in grad school. 

I would have bought the dvd for myself, but wouldn’t expect anyone else to spend out of pocket  for this. 

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I enjoyed this theme.  Merry Christmas, everybody.

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