Joyeux Noël

Movie Information

In Brief: Joyeux Noël (2005) is a pretty good movie with something like a great one buried inside it. The trick is getting to that movie. The premise comes from an actual historical event — here, greatly enlarged and romanticized — in WWI where warring soldiers in “no man’s land” called a very unofficial truce on Christmas Eve and fraternized with the enemy. As a story, it’s a good one, and — despite its embellishments, easy message and fermenting melodrama — it plays well. It has everything needed to make an effective “feel good” antiwar picture of the crowd-pleasing variety. And I’ve no doubt that many people will find it just that. I can overlook its shameless manipulation and pushy sentiment, but I have more trouble with the first 30 or so minutes of the movie that get us to the central event. Never have I seen such a ragtag collection of WWI movie clichés. I kept thinking I wasn’t even looking at new footage, but an assemblage of clips from movies I saw 40-50 years ago. It made for pretty tough sledding to get to the much better, more interesting story the film wanted to tell. The Hendersonville Film Society will show Joyeux Noël Sunday, Nov. 16, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Genre: Fact-Based War Drama
Director: Christian Carion
Starring: Diane Krüger, Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Gary Lewis, Danny Boon, Daniel Brühl
Rated: PG-13



Joyeux Noël is a mixed bag of a movie. Oh, it’s beautifully made — some of the images are quite stunning. Also, its central story of a makeshift, impromptu, unauthorized Christmas truce involving German, French, and Scottish soldiers in 1914 war torn Europe is intriguing and affecting. It’s the kind of anti-war movie that upsets no one by being set in the distant past — and taking of the fairy tale quality of a fable.




The fact that it’s “fact-based” lends it a certain legitimacy, too — as long as you don’t worry too much over how factual the facts are by the time they hit the screen. It is not a movie that invites that kind of scrutiny. It wants you to leave the theater thinking well of your fellow man — assuming your fellow man is just some poor shnook caught in a war he doesn’t understand, and not a higher-up. And if you allow it to — and there’s no good reason you oughtn’t — it will pretty much achieve that aim. If you question the reality or the melodramatic aspects of the plot or the strangely inconclusive nature of the fate of the opera singers, the whole thing evaporates. While it’s onscreen, however it mostly works. But there’s a price to be paid in the shape of a good — or not so good — 30 minutes or more of clunky, cliché-riddled set-up before getting to the movie’s real story. I’m not sure it was entirely avoidable, but goodness knows it could have been handled with more finesse. However, if you’re up for Diane Kruger dressed to the nines in a WWI trench — an image as compelling as it is ludicrous — this is the movie for you.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Joyeux Noël Sunday, Nov. 16, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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