by Ryland Walker Knight
Today you can go out and buy one of my favorite movies not only of last year but of all time: Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale. I'll have more to say over in The Auteurs Notebook shortly, but for here, for now, know now that it's worth every finger-lickin cent you have to spare. Not only is the single-platter transfer beautiful (I'm sure the Blu-Ray disc looks great, too, as looking at the standard DVD on a BR player with HDMI-upconverting made it all the more crisp and lovely), but the second disc offers up Desplechin's short, L'aimée, which he made a couple years prior, and after Kings and Queen, about the sale of his family home in Roubaix. It offers a nice companion angle on the sense of home a home can give somebody—here, Arnaud's dad as he tells his history, his story riddled with familial lacunae—despite the inevitable hurt we accrue in families (in life). It's a terrifically sad picture. Yet, as with all of Arnaud's movies, its collaging impetus broadens the world; his focus somehow enlarges his scope; his world, forever cinematic, is maximal. In fact, you might say he's greedy for life. And, you might say I am, too, which might explain my ardor for his films.
I will never shy from the fact that I see myself in his art, and that this recognition—instead of devaluing—enriches these experiences. It's a form of flattery, sure, where I can pat myself on the back a bit, but it's also a challenge; his movies forever push me back, make me ask myself questions. Understanding is never one-way. My Sex Life... makes me question my formative relationships and long-delayed undergraduate degree; La Sentinelle makes me question my isolation, and my occasional impulse towards solipsism; Kings and Queen makes me throw up my hands and love my mom; A Christmas Tale makes me cry, and shows that, yes, life is hard, but it's just life—that you don't get to wallow, that you have to keep going, and will, despite your selfishness—that the world, and life, will accommodate a lot more than you ever expect. Also, there's a lot of formal fun, and the rush of it is exhilarating: life can fly by and still be rich every second. If you're lucky, you'll get some help (some love) along the way, and giving it back will only make things better. Take the gift and relish it now.