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Stephen Duffy's Favourite Festive Films As part of our 'Holiday Hits...' series, Stephen Duffy gives us his verdict on the best Christmas on film

Stephen Duffy's Favourite Festive Films

As part of our 'Holiday Hits...' series, Stephen Duffy gives us his verdict on the best Christmas on film

by Jay Lewis, Reviews Editor
first published: December, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

'The analogue capturing of that Christmas is both unique and compelling, the black-and-white pre-Internet experience of life fixed on film'

As a long-time fan of Stephen Duffy and his band The Lilac Time,  I've gathered from his lyrics  that he's a bit of a cinephile. So it's a delight that he has selected some of cinema's most poignant depictions of Christmas for our festive series.

But, before he guides us to our seats though, it's worth pausing for a moment to consider how 2023 has been for his band The Lilac Time.

Released in July this year 'Dance Till The Stars Come Down' is Duffy's best record (with The Lilac Time or otherwise), but don't just take my fannish word for it, go ask The Idler's most respected music critic Stewart Lee.  Comparing an album to the 'gathering twilight' of Bob Dylan's 'Time Out of Mind' is, to my mind, one of the greatest accolades a record could possibly be given. And that's exactly what Lee did in his review of 'Dance Till The Stars Come Down'. Lee is not in the habit of dishing out hyperbolic hackery, it's not in his nature. He knows his stuff, so when he talked of the 'reflective, elegiac and essential'  nature of the record , I nodded in total agreement,  embarrassingly hid my own review at the back of a drawer and went back to my day job. 

So then, if you could all finish off your conversations and turn off your mobile phones, it's time to hand over Stephen Duffy for his cinematic Holiday Hits...


Fanny and Alexander (directed by Ingmar Bergman, 1982)

Fanny and AlexanderLike many of a certain bent, I was cajoled into thinking the opening Christmas scene of 'Fanny & Alexander' was Christmas on film. But then there is the ferocious beating Alexander's father gives him after, as well as the sexual harassment of the servants. Beyond the film, Ingmar’s denial of The Holocaust and admiration of Hitler, which went on for months after the end of the Second World War, not to mention his failure to father his nine children and husband his five wives leaves one's admiration fading for those gloriously composed frames, he writes sanctimoniously.

 

8 and a half
(directed by Federico Fellini, 1963)
Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi in '8½' arrives in a dream, holding Christmas presents as the door opens and snow blows in. This surely is the greatest vision of Christmas that cinema has bestowed upon us. But then, in his dream, Guido banishes all women over thirty to some upstairs quarters and ends up brandishing a whip to uphold his patriarchal, fedora sporting, life. All we are left with is a beautiful postcard from a dream of a film.


My Night With Maude (directed by Eric Rohmer, 1969)
So the greatest Christmas movie must be 'My Night With Maude.  Shot at Christmas in snowy Clermont Ferrand. The frequent bleak church services bring a chill to your feet. Jean Louis decides he will marry blonde catholic Françoise who he sees one morning at mass. Naturally, he chases after her moped in his car but loses her in traffic. Luckily he bumps into an old Marxist buddy and the discussion of Blaise Pascal's 'Pensées' begins. They go to see a grim violin recital by Soviet virtuoso Leonid Kogan. The next night Vidal, his Marxist chum and he are sitting in a coffee bar. Jean Louis turns to him and says “It’s Christmas Eve. I’m going to midnight mass. Want to come?” It’s Christmas 1968. The White Album has been released. Apollo 8 is circling the moon. I may have written about this before somewhere else. But here it is captured by Eric Rohmer, who changed his name so his parents didn’t find out he was a successful, if wordy, member of the Nouvelle Vague. The analogue capturing of that Christmas is both unique and compelling, the black-and-white pre-Internet experience of life fixed on film.  We see that Maude also has a copy of Pascal's 'Pensées' and that it's easily accessible on her bottom shelf. 

Fittingly, the film ends on a summer day on the beach. 

My Night With Claude still


Essential Information
'Dance Till The Stars Come Down' by The Lilac Time can be purchased from their website
The rather fetching 'Dance Till The Stars Come Down' T-Shirts can be purchased from here

Photograph of Stephen Duffy by Two Cats in the Yard photography.

Jay Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based poet. He's also a music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.


about Jay Lewis »»

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