• Blue Christmas

    By Michael Koresky and Casey Moore

    Bluechristmas_post_large

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But you wouldn’t know it from all of the melancholy Christmas films that have been made over the years. In this video essay, we investigate the longstanding tradition of bleak midwinters at the movies (A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life are as sad and scary as they are, ultimately, elating), and we take a closer look at three of our favorite, if lesser-known, ones: Mon oncle Antoine, My Night at Maud’s, and A Christmas Tale.

15 comments

  • By Keith Enright
    December 19, 2013
    06:36 PM

    Oh, man. That gets right at the heart of xmas for me. Sweet melancholy, nostalgia for days that really never happened, and a year-end peace that sits so intangibly on the heart. Well done.
    Reply
  • By David Hollingsworth
    December 19, 2013
    08:51 PM

    What a great essay! This reminds me of every Christmas I've ever had. Bleak, grim, and a little of tinge of insanity, but ultimately, a little hope that maybe next year will be better.
    Reply
  • By Sean
    December 20, 2013
    03:57 AM

    I like that one in the Alps we need that film the chills makes you think you just opened the door on a cold winter's day.
    Reply
  • By Patrick
    December 20, 2013
    10:32 AM

    It wouldn't be Christmas without a viewing of Fanny and Alexander (TV version). The bishop brings holiday cheer!
    Reply
    • By Craig J. Clark
      December 20, 2013
      11:58 AM

      I got to see the theatrical version on the big screen last December. I'm sure the TV version is even more wondrous.
    • By JoAnne F.
      December 30, 2013
      08:45 PM

      Ha! And the sisters are a barrel of laughs too!
  • By RegoCinephile
    December 20, 2013
    12:07 PM

    This was really magnificent, thanks Criterion for this essay!
    Reply
  • By RealCriterion
    December 20, 2013
    02:12 PM

    An exquisite piece, and one that I'm sure resonates with most; Christmas is, at once, exciting and unforgiving, and exploration of our own uninhabited deliriousness at receiving gifts and the reawakening of terrible depression, and you've summed it up perfectly with your choices and your analyses.
    Reply
  • By ajyoungen
    December 21, 2013
    11:36 PM

    "We might…" Go right ahead, please.
    Reply
  • By rvbranham
    December 26, 2013
    03:56 PM

    i'd always hoped that welcome to l.a. might be added to the criterion blue xmas list.
    Reply
  • By charles_raimondi@yahoo.com
    December 28, 2013
    09:49 AM

    I read in the Wikipedia biography of Deanna Durbin, who passed this year, about her Christmas noir film 'Christmas Holiday', and would love to see it, but all of the versions for sale appear to be low quality bootlegs. Does anyone know of a good version for sale? It is hard to believe that a movie with Deanna Durbin, Gene Kelly, directed by Robert Siodmak, and adapted from a W. Somerset Maugham novel by screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, who, with Orson Welles, co-wrote the screeplay of 'Citizen Kane', is out of print. It would be great to see 'Christmas Holiday' re-mastered and released on blu ray by Criterion.
    Reply
  • By JoAnne F.
    December 30, 2013
    08:43 PM

    Thanks for this filmic reflection on a time of year that is in fact difficult for lots of folks! I am a ritual performance artist and just did my last show Wintersong on the 21st The Winter Solstice. As this essay points out the Winter holiday season is imbricated by a rueful bittersweet feeling and it is certainly my world view. So it was hard to keep it down to a minimum in my show which needed to have more of a joyful feel.
    Reply
  • By David de los Ángeles Buendía
    December 23, 2014
    11:06 AM

    The premise of the video essay is that "Christmas Movies" (sensu lato) are sadder than other movies, it is a statistical argument. However the author never actually demonstrates this. Are movies set during Christmastide actually sadder than non-Christmas related movies? If one were to do a genre to genre comparison, it does not seem that say Vampire Movies are less sad than Christmas Movies. Are Zombie Movies, Action-Adventure Movies, Horror Films, Science Fiction Movies, Murder-Mystery Movies, Cowboy Movies, Submarine Movies, or indeed any other group of non-Christmas movies actually any sadder, on average, than Christmas movies. I for one have seen quite a few War Movies that were quite a bit sadder than any Christmas movie, even the gruesome and macabre "The Santa Clause" ("If you kill Santa Claus, your punishment is spend eternity as Santa Claus or until you yourself are killed by another man seeking to be Santa Claus"). Indeed, how would even establish the this proposition. One would have to establish a degree of sadness, the Cinematic Sarrow Index (CSI). Would one frequency, intensity, and duration of sad moments, sum them and divide that quantity by the running time of the movie? Then say seven Christmas movies and seven non-Christmas movies would each be assigned a CSI. Then the average CSI for each group of movies could be quantied and compared through the appropriate statistical test. This seems Rather it seems to me that the author is merely projecting his projecting his own feelings onto the genre and selected the saddest movies he new which just happened to be Christmas Movies. Like any other bit of art, the cinema is something of Rorschach test with each viewer seeing what he or she feels. Christmas Movies are no bluer than the viewer.
    Reply
  • By Cathy Earnshaw
    September 22, 2016
    03:45 PM

    Beautiful video. The melancholy Christmas movies tend to be my favorites.
    Reply