Monday, 24 December 2012

The Festive Take: Alternative Christmas Movies

With the Christmas season comes the Christmas movies, and if you're anything like me you've seen Elf more times than you care to imagine. So if you've had enough of the Muppets, Jimmy Stewart and well... Arnie, here is my list of some alternative Christmas films to fill you with the festive spirit.

1. Fanny and Alexander (1982)
Family, the adverts would have you believe, is one of the joys of the season. So what better way to engage with all those dear to you by settling silently in front of the TV to watch other people do Christmas? In that sense, Ingmar Bergman's nostalgia based study of childhood is the ultimate family film. It is not long before death, ghosts and tyrannical step fathers bring the mood down (this is Bergman after all) but the opening Christmas feast is a pure delight, exploding with a smorgasbord of food, colour and activity that will make you long for the days before Facebook stole Christmas. Above all else, Fanny and Alexander will remind you what the meaning of family really is.

2. Brazil (1985) 
Twisted satire from one of the Pythons now. The intro is pure madness. 'But Father Christmas can't come if we don't have a chimney,' inquires a young girl, only for paramilitary police to crash through the ceiling and abduct her father, in a sack no less, to be taken in for questioning. This is our welcome to Terry Gilliam's bureaucratically based dystopia. With dark comedy and H.G. Welles inspired dreamscape imagery, this is a unique Sci-fi with a festive twist, as Gilliam turns his keen surrealist eye at the ever-increasing commercial focus of Christmas. 

3.  The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Charles Laughton's masterpiece is a modern fairy-tale of good versus evil. Set in the Great Depression it follows two orphaned children, John and Pearl as they are pursued across Southern America by the terrifying and murderous 'Reverend' Harry Powell (played by the brilliant Robert Mitchum as one of the all time great villains.) Christmas is no where to found until guardian angel Lillian Gish steps in to defend them.  'It's a hard world for little things,' she states at the films end, and with it, we are reminded of who the magic of Christmas belongs to most of all, the children. 

4.  The Proposition (2005)

Christmas will have never seemed so far away in John Hillcoat's Australia-based Western. Still if you're fed up with the dreary British weather (A white Christmas looks far off at this point,) you can imagine yourself in the blistering heat of the Australian outback alongside Ray Winston's Captain Stanley as he attempts to bring stone cold civility to a morally decrepit land. The shocking violence on display means that this is one you may want to leave till after the kids go to sleep. Don't worry there is a short break from all the chaos so they can get the tree up and nibble on a bit of turkey.

5. La Belle et le Bete (1946)

Okay, so it might not be directly Christmas related, but Jean Cocteau's adaption of the classic fairy-tale is a film of pure magic. It may take a while to adjust, especially those familiar with Disney's animated favourite. But Jean Marais' spellbound Prince is a tragic, tortured monster of his own creation. Greedy step sisters, enchanted sets and a plethora of cinematic tricks ensure that Cocteau's film is a classic of haunted elegance.  

6. Rare Eports: A Christmas Tale (2010) 

Some gruesomely dark fun from our Scandinavian friends Rare Exports follows a group of hunters digging deep into the mountains to catch the original Santa Clause from his icy slumber. Suddenly the town's children begin mysteriously disappearing and its down to young Pietari and his Reindeer hunter father to stop this demonic vision of a not-so-jolly old Saint Nick. 

So there you have it, once you've had your fill of turkey, BBC specials and family members you can embrace the Christmas season through some beautiful and bizarre cinematic gems.

Happy holidays folks! 

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