JOYEUX NOEL (Christian Carion). 116 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (March 17). For venues and times, see Movies, page 97. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Strange that didn't win the best-foreign-language-film Oscar. It features a ton of the Academy requisites:didn't win the best-foreign-language-film Oscar. It features a ton of the Academy requisites: a liberal anti-war message, a cast and crew drawn from three countries, and the always popular notion that music transcends all borders.
It's loosely based on a real-life first-world-war event. According to the film, on Christmas Eve 1914 in France, the Germans, French and English put down their weapons, came out of their stinky trenches and celebrated the holy night by sharing music, booze and photographs of their wives and girlfriends. Over the following days, after playing football and burying their dead, the soldiers found they couldn't fight their enemies because their targets now had faces. They were reprimanded and replaced.
Director Christian Carion isn't much of a historian. French involvement in the so-called Christmas Truce is apocryphal. Worse, the one-sided moral representation of war -- not to mention a giggle-inducing subplot about two opera singers -- makes this film into All Quaint On The Western Front.
There are some lively things around the edges, including a funny scene with a cat that two countries claim as their own. Also look for the chilling appearance near the end by the great Ian Richardson as a patriotic man of the cloth. Alas, his fire-and-brimstone pronouncements come too late to save this sentimental film.