I know, I know, we do this every year. I prefer to think of it as a staple of the Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second landscape.
Tis the season of guilty pleasures and nostalgia-drenched temporally relevant viewing, of Deck The Halls and Jingle All The Way, of A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Muppet Christmas Carol (which, I must confess, I’ve never actually seen). Off the beaten path of tradition though lies a couple of lesser-known, utter masterpieces that take place during the season to be jolly.
Allen Baron’s Blast Of Silence is a post-Cassavetes, pre-New Hollywood independently-produced American hitman drama, charting a Christmas-week in the life of a man who has travelled to New York to take down a mob boss, before becoming embroiled in a far more dangerous situation.
Another favourite is Claude Jutra’s wonderful coming-of-age picture, Mon Oncle Antoine. Playing a little like a cross between Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story and The 400 Blows, Jutra’s film is considered by many, the BFI included, to be the best Canadian film of all time.
A couple of films that happen to be set around Christmas, but aren’t necessarily concerned directly with the festive period include most of Shane Black’s oeuvre, including this year’s Iron Man 3, Billy Friedkin’s masterpiece, To Live And Die In L.A, and one section of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Die Hard is probably the most famous alternative Xmas movie, with it long being a favourite of the too-cool-for-Capra class (personally speaking, I far prefer the airport-based, also-set-on-Christmas-eve sequel).
On a different note entirely, in the sense that it’s not remotely concerned with the festive season but peddles the level of nostalgic whimsy that ought to be illegal at any other time of year is Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso, which, rather brilliantly, is being reissued theatrically to latch on to the lucrative Xmas cinema visit market, placing it directly alongside such seasonal staples as Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, which has a healthy second-life as a Christmas rep staple. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo has quickly occupied a similar spot in my own household.
Adam Batty – Editor-In-Chief
Further Reading – The Top Ten Books For Cinephiles This Holiday Season.