A Christmas Tale, “Un Conte de Noel,” (2008. This unconventional tale of a dysfunctional family’s agonizingly strained, animosity-filled Christmas reunion was written and directed by Arnaud Desplechin(MY SEX LIFE…OR HOW I GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT). It was nominated at the Cannes Film Festival for the Palme d’Or Award. The French film, a family comedy/ drama, runs two and a half hours, and brings together a starry ensemble cast led by Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Amalric, with Deneuve’s real – life daughter by Marcello Mastroianni, Chiara Mastroianni. Deneuve (THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, THE LAST METRO) plays Junon, wife of Abel, matriarch of the Vuillard family, which has had more than its fair share of physical, and mental illness, loss, and exile. But she finds herself in need of a bone marrow transplant, so the entire family is forced to come together for the holiday. I’ve read somewhere that Deneuve has had some experimental plastic surgery done on her face; be that as it may, her face is no longer terribly expressive. Amalric (MY SEX LIFE…) plays Henri, middle child and black sheep of the family. Mastroianni (TOWARDS ZERO) plays Sylvia, wife of Ivan, the youngest son. The story is told at great length, though not much happens; there are perhaps more flashbacks than needed. The characters also fairly frequently breach the third wall, addressing the audience directly, a sure way to stop the little action of the film cold. There are people who say that Deneuve and Kristin Scott Thomas are now supporting the French film industry by making Lifetime-type movies, but this sure isn’t one. The family smoke and drink like there is no tomorrow, and for them, there may not be. In this film made in 2008, they smoke even indoors, in rooms where there are children; they nip at their flasks at inopportune moments, before and while driving. Henri tells a vulgar and inappropriate story at the Christmas dinner table. I’m glad these people don’t live next door to me.