Monday, December 24, 2007

kicking christ out of christmas

christmas rocks, but christianity sucks these days.

who needs a 2000-year-old religion that shit all over the reputation of a galilean man of peace, elective poverty, + tolerance (that is, if he even existed) to enjoy the holidays?

(+ what can you say about a religion that totally ignores its supposed founder's teachings in favor of focusing on his death?)

the catholic church stole the december 25 holiday (bruma) from the romans, anyway, originally a celebration of the empire's state religion--commemorating the birth of the unconquered sun (sol invictus).

if you want to celebrate christmas without the usual angels, creches, haloes (also copped from the romans), or even santa claus, you can't go wrong by consulting these three recent films, all out on dvd now, set in the christmas season but totally fucking with the whole tradition.

eyes wide shut--stanley kubrick's final film does for the christmas movie what 2001 did for science fiction. audiences who hated the movie back in 1999 were under the mistaken notion that they were going to see a sex film starring tom + nicole. instead, they got a film about consumerism--+ a class system based on what + whom you are able to buy. what most people missed was the all-pervasive xmas decorations + the characters' compulsion to buy + let themselves be bought. if frank capra's it's a wonderful life taught us how each human life matters in the world, kubrick's eyes wide shut shows us that, at the right price, people can vanish without a trace without their disappearance registering even as a blip in the social fabric.

sheitan--this french film, directed by kim chapiron, features three parisian club kids who on christmas eve follow not a star but a drunken whim to the country home of a mysterious + attractive new acquaintance named eve. the home's caretaker is a doltish shepherd named joseph, whose wife is upstairs on the verge of having a baby. the house is full of creepy-looking toys, mainly dolls, which eventually figure into the house's secret + unfolding plot. the film offers a hilarious + perverse performance by the limitlessly talented vincent cassel. by the way the film's title is the persian word for "satan," so the film provides a truly twisted twist on the nativity story + also toys provocatively with christian concepts of sacrifice + miracles.

eastern promises--again with vincent cassel, this time as the drunken heir to a herod-like russian mobster intent on whacking a newborn child, named christine, born out of wedlock to a 14-year-old junky whore. like the previous films, eastern promises takes place at christmastime, + director david cronenberg visually cites not only the nativity story but also the nutcracker + bergman's fanny + alexander (another great pick for the holiday season, by the way). unlike the previous two films, eastern promises has a tight plot +, though less audacious than the other two, its urban crime story shows that some guardian angels come with prison tattoos + moonlight as angels of death. it's also cronenberg's most homoerotic film to date, with a key plot point hinging on a character's presumed homosexuality + a now notorious nude knife fight in a bathhouse.

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