Christmas is not all about guardian angels or whether Santa is real or not, it can take many interesting and exciting twists and turns. We all know the perennial Top Ten Christmas lists with It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, or more recently The Grinch and Elf, but films can explore deeper themes during the holiday season or find wry ways of telling about it. I searched out a few to tide you over between Catholic and Orthodox celebrations.Looking at the list of popular Christmas movies, I was stunned not to see Fanny and Alexander, which begins with one of the most memorable cinematic Christmas scenes. Ingmar Bergman presents what is perhaps his most compelling and certainly most personal film. But then Christmas films generally tend to be filtered through a Hollywood lens. Here is my humble effort to correct a few oversights.
One of my favorites is The Apartment. Ostensibly, this film is not about Christmas but it has a great scene in a diner that perfectly captures C.C. Baxter’s situation and disillusionment with the season.
Another favorite is The Irony of Fate, which is ostensibly a New Year’s film about waking up in the wrong apartment in Leningrad. Of course, Christmas couldn’t be officially celebrated, yet one sees the Christmas tree in the apartment and a number of playful reminders to the season. Here are a few scenes from this wonderful film.
The funny thing is that most Top Christmas movie lists reference Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, when the song was actually introduced in the previous film, Holiday Inn, a much better movie in my opinion, as takes in holidays the whole year round with some pretty amazing dance sequences by Fred Astaire, including this one commemorating the Fourth of July.
My Night at Maud’s also uses the season as a point of departure, as Eric Rohmer explores the subject of marriage.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg starts in December and ends in December, but provides a long musical romance in between, opening with this whimsical scene in an automobile repair shop.
The Hudsucker Proxy is an amusing twist on It’s A Wonderful LIfe as only the Coen bros. can do.
Dusan Makavejev has great fun with Coca-Cola and Christmas down under in The Coca-Cola Kid.
Smoke had one of the best Christmas stories about how Auggie got his camera.
Metropolitan is another fun movie that revolves around the holiday season.Read less