Christmas-Carol- A-Thon 2011 comes to a close with one of the most visually enticing versions ever made. Unfortunately, it’s also virtually impossible to obtain for people who lack the nearly psychotic drive necessary to track these things down.
TF1 Television in France first aired this version of A Christmas Carol, which could be described as a Carol for the arthouse crowd. Not a put-down OR a compliment, just an observation. The performances are even more low-key than in the George C Scott version and the direction, by Pierre Boutron, is very inventive, bordering on a surrealist approach .The overall effect is like A Very Jean Cocteau Christmas or something. As with the Spanish Leyenda de Navidad this French production keeps the story in 1843 London and stars Michel Bouquet as Scrooge and Pierre Olaf as Bob Cratchit.
This 90 minute version of the Carol is one of the tiny handful that depict Scrooge at Marley’s funeral, like the 1969 Australian cartoon version. Marley’s Ghost has the look of a bearded badass, but delivers his warning to Scrooge with a cold and calculating air that is almost more chilling than the impassioned delivery of most other Marleys. The Ghost of Christmas Past is played very androgynously by Pierre Clement (an embarrassment of Pierres in this version), appropriately enough for a spirit whose gender cannot be determined according to Dickens in the novel.
Christmas Present is clad in red instead of the usual green, and is portrayed by Georges Wilson. This Christmas Present really departs from tradition and could be described as if he’s acting like Scrooge’s therapist or something, nudging him along to a broader self- awareness through the images he shows our protagonist. Those images include Ignorance and Want, always a sure sign that the filmmakers “get” the Carol, unlike the versions where those despair-inducing figures are omitted. This ghost wins bonus points from me for including Dickens’ speech about pompous religious nuts who think they’re fit to lecture others about the “proper” way of observing Christmas. Virtually no other version of the Carol includes that bit.
Christmas Yet To Come is played by Lisette Malidor and, while she remains unspeaking, like that spirit does in the Dickens novel, she has a severe look and a way with wordlessly ordering Scrooge around that are sort of like a Christmas Dominatrix. Ah, the French! The spirits convey Scrooge to their temporal destinations by means of teleporting his bed, or filling his bedroom with a fog which, when cleared, reveals their new location. Scrooge on the morning after remains disappointingly subdued, the only time the low- key performances work against this production. And just as this telefilm opened with a scene that is simply mentioned, but not detailed in the original novel, it closes the same way, presenting a flash- forward to Scrooge’s own funeral, where it is clear how beloved the man became after changing his ways. In attendance is a grown-up Tiny Tim, but Miss Vicki is nowhere to be seen (rimshot).
Where does the time go? There are still dozens of versions of the Carol I didn’t have a chance to get to, and they’ll need to wait for next Christmas time now. Merry Christmas and thank you for reading!
FOR MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: http://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/