I’ve remembered to mention this a few times previously, but usually less than a week before Christmas. So I wanted to be sure to bring it up well in advance this year. And that's recommend one of my favorite, little-known holiday films, Joyeux Noel. It was nominated for a 2005 Best Foreign Language Oscar, based on a true story in WWI. Since the holiday is still three weeks away, that should give folks time to perhaps get it from Netflix or whatever online service you subscribe to before the season is out. Though it's great any time of the year.
I really thought Joyeux Noel should have won the Best Foreign Language Oscar they year it was nominated, but the award that year went to a South African movie, Tsotsi. That was quite good, but for my own taste Joyeux Noel stood out as a substantially better film. Tsotsi told an important story, in an important country at an important time in its history. And it told its story well, though it wasn't special filmmaking. I suspect its "importance" helped a lot. But Joyeux Noel was just...joyous. And wonderful. And beautifully made.
The film tells a fictionalized version of a famous story you may have heard -- how in World War I, four armies faced each other on Christmas Eve, ready for battle, but among themselves decided to call a truce for that one night. The movie isn't just "feel good," there's a great deal of drama and intense tension, and it's all told superbly.
It was also the first movie I'd seen Diane Kruger in, though I didn't realize it at the time, since she wasn't a well-known star in the U.S. then. She plays an opera singer, and interestingly her singing is dubbed by a soprano who was one of my folks very favorite, Natalie Dessay.
(I should note for those wary of foreign language films that one of the armies at the crossroads is British, so a good part of the movie is in English.)
Here's the trailer. It doesn't remotely give a sense of the rich, especially-tense drama at stake and tends more to focus on the warmth, coming across like nothing more than a feel-good movie of the holiday season. It's much more than that. But you should at least get an idea of it all, most especially how exceedingly well-crafted the movie is.
By the way, here's a link to it on Netflix, by clicking here. You'll note that it has four stars -- and a 7.8 rating on iMDB. On Rotten Tomatoes, the critic rating is a high 74%...but the audience rating is even higher, at 89%. So I'm not alone on this...