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December 17, 2008

Pere Noel est une Ordure

pere noel poster.jpg

Jean-Marie Poire - 1982
Universal Region 2 DVD

The title, if you haven't guessed, translates as "Father Christmas is a Shit". Unavailable in the U.S., Jean-Marie Poire's comedy is reportedly a cult favorite in France. I'm not sure if the film simply has not aged well, or if it just was not that funny to begin with. The frenetic pacing and forced outrageousness wear thin. Whatever Pere Noel may have offered in the way of black comic view of Christmas twenty-five years ago has aged badly. It is probably no surprise that unlike the more recent French holiday comedy, Daniele Thompson's La Buche, or the currently available Christmas Tale, Poire's humor fails because most of his characters are simply unlikable.

The film, which was remade as Mixed Nuts by Nora Ephron, takes place primarily at the office of a suicide hotline. The people running the hotline are at least as neurotic as the people they are attempting to serve. Mrs. Musquin keeps getting trapped in the elevator, unable to make it to the Christmas Eve dinner. Frigid Therese and prissy Pierre are attracted to each other but express their feelings awkwardly, she with a sweater he mistakes for a floor rag, he with an "erotic" painting of the gawky Therese imagined voluptuous and dancing with a pig. There is also the inept petty criminal Felix constantly brawling with his determinedly stupid wife, Zezette. A man from an unidentified Eastern European country tries to spread holiday cheer with a selection of inedible deserts. Only the lonely transvestite, Katia, garners any sympathy.

pere_noel est_une_ordure.jpg

Could I be missing something here? Possibly. Poire is hugely successful in France. His one attempt in English, Just Visiting, a remake of the very popular Les Visiteurs, came and went in the Spring of 2001. Just the titles from Poire's filmography suggest a penchant for being deliberately provocative, such as Men prefer Fat Girls and My Wife Maurice. One of Poire's earlier screenplays, directed by Edouard Molinaro, Dracula and Son might be worthy of rediscovery if only for being the one film to star both Christopher Lee and Catherine Breillat. Poire certainly seems to have the loyalty of actors who appear in several of his films, and who have also shared in the crafting of the screenplays. Pere Noel may seem to some to serve as an antidote to the synthetic sweetness of too many holiday themed movies. In trying too hard to poke fun at that most desperate time of the year, Poire's film is both cynical and cheerless.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 17, 2008 12:56 AM


yes you really did not get anything from that movie. The play on words are extremely funny and the dialogues are hilarious. But you are probably to braindead to get anything unamerican

Posted by: gregoire ken at December 14, 2009 06:54 AM