This evening I watched "A Christmas Tale," the new film by Arnaud Desplechin. Don't confuse for a minute this modern, very French film with "A Christmas Story," Jean Shepard's very American story of a little boy who who wants a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas. The Desplechin film reminds me a little of Jonathan Franzen's novel "The Corrections," in being a fascinating story without one likable character. The movie stars Catherine Deneuve as a mother who so openly dislikes and despises her children that she can tell them to their face that she never loved them, and after she receives a bone-marrow transplant from her son, she tells him in the hospital, "Look. My body loathes you. It's rejecting all of your cells." The feel-good movie of the season.
Actually, I enjoyed it, but it's not to everybody's taste. Stylistically, it's a great homage to the 1960s French New Wave of Truffaut and Goddard.
However, I had confused Arnaud Desplechin with Arnaud Desjardins. Desjardins apparently directed French documentaries in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and is now a teacher and practioner of Eastern religions. I've come across quotes of his on Starbucks coffee cups and in a book I have of spiritual sayings for each day of the year (e.g., "There is nothing clever about not being happy"). As my entry of May 22, 2005 quotes, "You cannot live sheltered forever without ever being exposed, and at the same time be a spiritual adventurer. Be audacious. Be crazy in your own way, with that madness in the eyes of man that is wisdom in the eyes of God. Take risks, search and search again, search everywhere, in every way, and do not let a single opportunity or chance that life offers pass you by, and do not be petty and mean, trying to drive a hard bargain."
I had been curious to see some of his films, but realized fairly early during "A Christmas Tale" that I was watching the wrong Arnaud. Not that the film was without it's own merit, however.