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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


A Christmas Tale [Blu-ray]


(Arnaud Desplechin, 2008)



Review by Gary Tooze


Production: Why Not Productions

Video: Criterion Collection - Spine # 492



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:32:11.163

Disc Size: 48,388,234,227 bytes

Feature Size: 32,220,690,432 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.99 Mbps

Chapters: 26

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 1st, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio French 3722 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3722 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), none



• New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director Arnaud Desplechin
• L’aimée, Desplechin’s 2007 documentary about the selling of his family home (1:06:04 in HD!)
• New documentary featuring interviews with Desplechin and actors Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve (35:59 in HD!)
• Original theatrical trailers
• 20-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Lopate





Description: In Arnaud Desplechin’s beguiling A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël), Catherine Deneuve brings her legendary poise to the role of Junon, matriarch of the troubled Vuillard family, who come together at Christmas after she learns she needs a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative. That simple family reunion setup, however, can’t begin to describe the unpredictable, emotionally volatile experience of this film, an inventive, magical drama that’s equal parts merriment and melancholy. Unrequited childhood loves and blinding grudges, brutal outbursts and sudden slapstick, music, movies, and poetry, A Christmas Tale ties it all together in a marvelously messy package.



The Film:

Farce, tragedy and mystery simmer together in Arnaud Desplechin's searing A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Nöel) in a way that will make anyone dreading the holidays with their family grateful for what strife they may face. It's nothing compared to what the Vuillard clan gets up to.

From death to adultery to a Christmas-dinner table toast from one character announcing both his sister and mother are the most noxious of vulgarities, it's all faced with little more than a Gallic shrug, a pout, or a freshly sparked Gauloise.

You need a scorecard to keep up with who's who. People keep just showing up; a cousin here, a friend there, all with some tie through blood or lust to the family. It adds to the unsettled feeling director Desplechin (Rois et reine) is going for. Nothing is what it seems and predictability is about as unlikely as a "no smoking" sign among this two-pack-a-day family.

The story is simple and tragic. Abel (Jean-Paul Roussillon) and Junon (the still-radiant Catherine Deneuve) had a son, Joseph, who suffered from a rare genetic cancer. With no bone-marrow donor among their daughter, Elizabeth, or themselves, they had a had another baby as a potential donor, Henri, who, it turned out, was incompatible, "no use."

Excerpt from Linda Barnard at The Toronto Star located HERE



Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Arnaud Desplechin’s “A Christmas Tale” is one of two recent IFC Films releases being put to the Criterion label along with Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah”. In 2010 Criterion/IFC will release Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,”, Jan Troell’s “Everlasting Moments,” Olivier Assayas’ “Summer Hours,” Steve McQueen’s “Hunger,” Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s “Still Walking,” and Abdellatif Kechiche’s “The Secret of the Grain.”


There really is no critiquing the image quality of the Blu-ray. It appears perfectly rendered with a nice sheen of consistent grain - it exports occasional surprising detail from the many medium shots in the film. This is a dual-layered transfer with the 2.5 hour feature taking up over 32 Gig of space.  It probably looked strikingly similar to the 2008 theatrical.  Colors seem accurate with realistic skin tones. There is some minor noise in monochromatic darker sequences. The 1080P Blu-ray shows some dimensionality as well.  This is no action film with excessive CGI and effects - but the high-definition digitization exports the film's humanist qualities extremely well. It is advertised on the box as the digital transfer being 'supervised by director Arnaud Desplechin'. I expect it looks about as good as it ever will for your home theater viewing.

















Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 3722 kbps is left without a lot to separate. The passive film is heavily dialogue-driven but when an instance of rear channel sound surfaces - it is crisp and adept. Grégoire Hetzel's score switches moods deftly with the tone of the film - and it is this that benefits the healthy lossless track. There is a heavily artistic combination of visuals and music that is well supported in HD. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.



Extras :

We get the hour-6-minute long 2007 documentary from Desplechin entitled "L’aimée". It involves moving out of one of several of the Desplechin family residences in the town of Roubaix. It is simple and touching with a lot of shots of static interiors. There is a new documentary featuring interviews with Desplechin and actors Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve - in English. For 36-minutes they discuss the making of - production and performances with Desplechin giving the most interesting input. There are also some trailers in HD - and a 20-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Lopate. Considering it is Criterion the supplements directly relating to A Christmas Tale seem a little sparse.



This is an excellent, if long, film experience and notable as Criterion's first from this lauded director. I'm very pleased with the continuing strong package post signing the deal with IFC. This Blu-ray supports a wonderful presentation of a curious, emotional and memorable film. It mixes diverse elements as well as I have ever seen in a modern film. I suggest this is very much worth seeing in the best possible format available - presently $3 cheaper than the DVD. We absolutely recommend this Blu-ray

Gary Tooze

November 18th, 2009





About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze








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