In celebration of both Christmas and New Year’s being just around the corner, we’ve put together a list of foreign holiday films you may not have seen. While many cultures are prone to watching dubbed versions of Hollywood classics, there are a couple of gold nuggets native to other countries that are worth a watch, especially if you’re tired of watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time.
A Christmas Tale (2008)
While you’ve no doubt heard of A Christmas Story, French director Arnaud Desplechin released a popular film similarly titled A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël) back in 2008. Alongside the incomparable Catherine Deneuve, the flick stars Anne Consigney, Mathieu Amalric, Melvil Poupaud, Emmanuelle Devos and Chiara Mastoianni. The plot follows Deneuve’s character Junon, the matriarch of the Vuillard family. who’s just discovered that she has leukemia and is in need of a bone marrow transplant from one of her kin.
The holiday season brings the fractured family together to deal with their mother’s terrible news. While most Christmas films focus on happy times for their family, it’s clear from the get go that A Christmas Tale is different. The close confines of the gathering highlight the conflicts between members of the Vuillard clan and how they’re forced to deal with some ugly truths. Though some issues are resolved, others are left open, which is pretty demonstrative of the complexity of real life.
The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (1976)
The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! is a Russian classic from director Eldar Ryazanov. Loosely based on the director’s 1971 play “Once on New Years Eve,” this 1976 romantic comedy film stars Andrey Myagkov and Barbara Brylska as a pair of strangers who are forced to spend New Years Eve together and of course, fall in love before the night is over.
Though both are engaged at the beginning, Zhenya’s (Myagkov) accidental drunken entrance into Nadya’s (Brylska) apartment–that just so happens to have the same address as his own place in Moscow–sparks your typical rom com chain of events. When the two have exhausted all of their efforts to get Zhenya back to his fiance, they are compelled to face the night together. Through all of the unexpected guests, phone calls and general holiday shenanigans, Zhenya and Nadya find a place in each other’s hearts which though typical, its still fun to watch.
Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Tokyo Godfathers, which comes from the creative minds of director Satoshi Kon and scriptwriter Keiko Nobumoto (Cowboy Bebop), tells the tale of three homeless people who set out on a journey one Christmas to find the parents of a baby they found while searching through some trash. The plot centers around middle aged alcoholic named Gin (Toru Emori), a runaway girl named Miyuki (Aya Okamoto), and transvestite and former drag queen named Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki).
Hana’s maternal instinct prompts the three to keep the child and find her parents no matter what. Like many holiday films, the flick focuses on family ties, coincidence, love and miracles. What’s quite enjoyable about this particular film however, is that it shows the bond between strangers who’ll stop at at nothing to get their newfound bundle of joy home for the holidays. It’s also pretty unique that the protagonists are homeless. You don’t see that often in the film industry, especially in features centered around Christmas.
Rare Exports (2010)
If you’re looking for something darker to watch over the holiday break, the 2010 Finnish horror/fantasy/thriller Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale may be for you. The Jalmari Helander film features the talents of Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, and Ilmari Järvenpää and follows the original Scandinavian Kris Kringle myth of an evil being you most definitely do not want coming to town–mostly because according to folklore, the demon’s main objective is to carry off and torture naughty kids.
After a bunch of children, supplies and reindeer go missing in the Korvatunturi mountains, a father/son reindeer herding duo capture the malevolent Santa who was recently discovered by a group of archaologists. In an attempt to cover all that was lost, Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) try to sell the mythical monster to the corporation conducting the dig. I guess the moral of this one, and a lot of other scary features, is don’t go poking around in ancient burial sites. You never know what or who you’ll find.
If you have a favorite foreign holiday film that should have made the list, feel free to leave a comment below or start a conversation with me on Twitter: @sam3214!