Having dissolved my initial advent calendar idea (for more than one reason), I felt I had to salvage some of the Christmas-kind-of-related movies you might not have seen. And if so, should see again. So find those empty windows in your seasonal viewing diary and slot the following five recommended motion pictures into them. Each with streaming links, so you have no excuses really. Merry Christmas.
Tis the season to be philosophical, theoretical, socialist, wannabe aristocratic. A bunch of young upper-class socialites befriend a middle class young man who wanders into their class circles (Sally Fowler Rat Pack) quite by accident in Manhattan. The New Yorkers mingle and bond, kind of, at after-hours parties, well-dressed gatherings as they keep up appearances and debate the high end social scene and yuppie culture. What is really happening is an intelligent, magnetic coming of age comedy-drama, exquisitely written and directed by Whit Stillman.
Iceland – 101 Reykjavik (2000)
As I now delve into the non-English films in this series (the vast majority are I might add), I remind myself to inform you all of the quality of Christmas films that are way beyond what we class as normal in movie-watching terms. And also a plug to the ever-evolving Scandinavian cinema is going to be on my agenda when appropriate. With that in mind, 101 Reykjavík from Baltasar Kormákur is a memorable depiction of a kind of threesome unlike what you have seen before perhaps. Almost 30, Hlynur still lives with his mother in a shabby little apartment, where porn is watched as freely as the son undresses for a bath (which transforms into a make-shift couch too). The kind of disruption a Spanish dance teacher causes (Victoria Abril running the show) is both inevitable and surprising. The film won the Discovery Film Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Black Christmas (1974)
One of the more under-rated / under-seen Christmas themed horror movies, Black Christmas received mixed reviews back in the 1970s on its release. I feel this has likely aged rather well, some of the now familiar components utilized in such chillers have been done to death since, and thus appear fresh here. The slow-burning build-up, sheer obscene nature of the telephone terror, and a genuinely thrilling finale, not to mention some genre-appropriate acting, make this a festive film high on my recommendations.
Fanny och Alexander (1982)
Ingmar Bergman’s illustrious career over the decades his was active had it’s fair share of films that warranted ‘his opus’ status. How do you choose from a selection of masterpieces exactly? In my view, Fanny and Alexander was as close as any foreign language film to potentially be strong enough to win Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s hefty running time was largely attributed to the television version, though the theatrical cut is a mighty movie in itself, Bergman demonstrates an expertise in his portrayal of the bleak and the private even with the massive ensemble here.
Written and directed by Wong Kar-wai, 2046 delves back into the vivid worlds he created with Days of Being Wild in 1990, and In the Mood for Love from 2000. A romance, a drama, but also a mystery in its multi-layered story arcs and settings (both time and space). Chow Mo-wan is still love-lost, and here frequents a number of different women, unraveling the film’s narrative shifts. With regular significance to Christmas Eve, Kar-wai has crafted another lavish affair, with more beautifully lit corridors piercing the action.