Staff Journal / Visual Culture

Non-Christmas Christmas Cinema

Non-Christmas Christmas Cinema

One of the best things about Christmas is the sheer volume of films on the television schedule. I’m sure many, if not all of you, have by now bought the Christmas Radio Times, reached for your favourite highlighter pen and marked which films you want to watch, sky + or illegally download. As our blog about poems in films proved popular, we decided to do something similar and run through some of our favourite Christmas scenes from films that aren’t Christmas films. Hopefully that last sentence makes sense.

Bridget Jones’ Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001)

Non-Christmas Christmas Cinema

‘Yummy. Turkey curry, my favourite.’

Just because we work at an academic publisher, it doesn’t mean that we have to exclusively like black and white silent Swedish cinema. You wouldn’t turn down second helpings of roast potatoes at Christmas dinner, or another sherry after cheese and biscuits – so why resist Briget Jones’ Diary’s charms? Stilted conversations, family embarrassments and bad festive jumpers may be a British stereotype, but they’re also hard to deny. As seen here,  Bridget (Renée Zellweger) and Mark (Colin Firth) don’t hit it off at first, but eventually their relationship reaches the point, at Christmas, where there is ‘an occasion for genuinely tiny knickers.’ TA

The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)

‘As far as I’m concerned you’re tops. I mean decency-wise and otherwise-wise’

A drone in an insurance firm C.C. ‘Bud’ Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is career driven. So much so, in order to climb the ladder Baxter allows four company managers to use his Upper West Side apartment for their various extramarital liaisons. As it’s Jack Lemmon, we forgive this sleazy aspect of his character, especially when he falls in love with a elevator operator Miss Kubelick, played by Shirley MacLaine. At the staff Christmas Party things come to a head when Baxter inadvertently discovers the relationship between his boss, Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), and Miss Kubelik – though he conceals this realisation – just after Miss Kubelik learns from Sheldrake’s secretary (Edie Adams) that she is merely the latest female employee to be his mistress, the secretary herself having once filled that vacancy. Christmas cheer soon turns into suicide attempts, but through copious amounts of strong coffee and tennis racket-strained pasta dishes (you’ll never use a colander again after watching this film), the two eventually end up together with one of the most famous final lines in Hollywood history. TA

Kramer vs Kramer (Robert Benton, 1979)

‘No, this is a one day offer only gentleman’

When I think of Christmas, top of the list is divorce. Second is custody battle. Third is job-hunting. Kramer vs Kramer ticks all three boxes, as well as continuing the office party theme. Having lost his high-paid advertising job because of his conflicting responsibilities, Ted (Dustin Hoffman) needs to find a new position before Christmas – Joanna (Meryl Streep), Ted’s estranged wife, leaves him and their son at the film’s beginning. Ted approaches a company for work unannounced, and by doing so interrupts the bosses at the Christmas party. Ted, with a mixture of desperation and arrogance sets out why they should hire him with the thump of disco music infiltrating the room, contrasting heavily with his state of mind – I guess you could say it’s ironic. Ted is hired and the music suddenly feels less inappropriate. To celebrate, after a firm-handshake with his new bosses, Ted finds the prettiest woman in the room and plants a big kiss on her lips – aside from being Christmas, he is, after all, newly single. TA

Trois Couleurs: Blanc ( Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1994) 

‘Too bad you missed Christmas’

I think this is the most under-rated of this magnificent trilogy; a blacker-than-black comedy with white as its recurring motif. In the three colours trilogy this film represent ‘equality’, and it works on one level as a dissection of Poland’s place in the Europe in which it wants to play a part. Destitute in Paris, the hero Karol Karol, played wonderfully by Zbigniew Zamachowski, smuggles himself onto the plane home to Poland in a suitcase. He is stolen by baggage thieves, and his homecoming is a mugging in the mountains (‘home at last’). Stumbling through the snow to the family hairdressing salon Karol left years ago, he looks at the new neon sign above: ‘you have a new sign’ he says to his brother, ‘this is Europe now’ comes the reply. Karol spends the next few months piecing together a statue of Marianne (who reminds him of his improbably beautiful ex-wife played by Julie Delpy) and plotting revenge on Paris, Delpy and the New Europe which has thrown up so many contradictions to the older, harsher, Polish winter – which will always be Karol’s home. TH

The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)

‘He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids’

Many share the feelings towards Christmas that Nora (Myrna Loy) expresses in The Thin Man, the classic adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s crime novel.  One of those people is Nick Charles (William Powell),  Nora’s husband. With a penchant for ‘lanky brunettes with wicked jaws’ and a former detective, Nick returns to New York after a four-year absence with Nora and his dog Asta. Reacquainting himself with some old cronies, Nick finds himself roped into solving a murder.  Although he has a gun, unlike Nora the only thing Nick is interested in killing is time – Christmas baubles are just collateral damage. This is the best depiction I know of what is commonly referred to as ‘the late morning post-Christmas present opening malaise.’ Full of witty lines, I implore you to watch this film – and then all of the five sequels. TA

One thought on “Non-Christmas Christmas Cinema

  1. Was just flipping through the channels and came across Kramer v Kramer. It was right at the beginning of the Xmas job scene referred to above. The kiss Ted plants on the pretty girl was edited out. What an outrage.

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