Dysfunctional family comedies and dramedies have been done again and again, often with them having some new motive for being put in the same house (think The Royal Tenenbaums, The Family Stone, Dan in Real Life), but Desplechin rarely feels the need to dwell on the dysfunction — look at how messed up, yet hilarious these people are! A Christmas Tale is both much more matter-of-fact and much more mysterious, using the dysfunction as a starting point rather than some kind of punchline.
Part of a recently minted deal with IFC Films, the Criterion Collection’s release of A Christmas Tale isn’t exactly overflowing with supplements — especially considering the DVD is a two-disc affair — but the quality is undeniable. With only the film on disc one, disc two contains L'Aimée, an hour-long documentary from 2007 that Desplechin shot about the sale of his family home — its inspiration for elements of A Christmas Tale are obvious — and a substantial featurette with interviews from Desplechin, Deneuve, and Amalric. The original theatrical trailer and the American release trailer are also included. A booklet with an essay by critic Phillip Lopate rounds out the set.
Some have decried the recent spate of contemporary films appearing on the Criterion label, especially with plenty notable older films still not getting the treatment, but A Christmas Tale is the perfect example of why there ought to always be room on the Criterion enthusiast’s shelf for the studio’s newer selections.