Set in the offices of a suicide hotline, this cheerfully misanthropic farce follows the fates of a half-dozen screwups as they stumble their way through the last hours of Christmas Eve. Based on a hit play, it became a cult film in France and was remade in Hollywood as MIXED NUTS (1994),
a Steve Martin vehicle.
'Twas the night before Christmas... Manning the phones at SOS HELP/FRIENDSHIP are Therese (Anemone) and Pierre (Thierry Lhermitte). When a caller named Katia (Christian Clavier) asks permission to come over, Pierre agrees--not realizing that Katia is a transvestite. Following a fight with her
boyfriend, Felix (Gerard Jugnot), a petty thief temporarily employed by a strip joint as a street Santa, Therese's dimwitted, pregnant friend, Josette (Marie-Anne Chazel) arrives, hotly pursued by Felix.
Josette and Felix resume their altercation, after which Felix is taken downstairs to the drugstore to have his wounds dressed. There, he impulsively gulps down several bottles of pills and shampoo and is rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile, Katia arrives in full drag and talks a reluctant Pierre
into dancing with him. Through it all, Mrs. Musquin (Josiane Balasko), another SOS HELP/FRIENDSHIP employee, spends the evening trying to get out of the building's stalled elevator.
Having escaped from the ambulance, Felix returns with a gun to reclaim Josette. After he shoots Katia in the foot, Josette grabs the weapon and empties the magazine through the office door. On the other side is the elevator repairman--dead. Josette and Felix cut the corpse into little pieces which
they gift-wrap while Therese and Pierre get it on in the shower. The whole hapless gang spend the early part of Christmas morning furtively distributing packages of the corpus delicti among the animals in the local zoo.
The opening of LE PERE NOEL EST UNE ORDURE! "Santa Claus Is a Bastard!" sets the stage for the comedy of errors to follow with establishing shots of a typical Christmas Eve ("The taxi drivers are too drunk to drive") in what appears to be a small city. Particularly evocative are a few long-shot
images of lone figurines in isolated phone booths surrounded by seas of December darkness. Except for these moments of almost subliminal melancholy, the movie is pure farce--a nutty nocturne that eschews sentimentality and antisentimentality with equal aplomb. Especially refreshing is LE PERE NOEL
EST UNE ORDURE!'s absolute refusal to shove its misanthropy down our throats with the take-no-prisoners tactics of such sour satires as DR. STRANGELOVE (1963), THE LOVED ONE (1965), and SEVEN BEAUTIES (1975). Nor is any attempt made to escalate the purely physical gags until they eclipse the
humorousness of the characters and their dialogue; unlike many desperate directors of farce, the makers of LE PERE NOEL EST UNE ORDURE! understood that it is pointless to claim "it's a mad, mad, mad, mad world" unless you can prove it.
A few of the picture's many memorable moments: (1) A suicidal man holding a gun to his head calls SOS HELP/FRIENDSHIP; Therese instructs him to push one of the buttons on the pay phone; the caller misunderstands and pulls the trigger; (2) Therese and Pierre are alerted to the fact that Katia is
making an expensive long-distance call on the office phone when they hear him ask "What time is it there?"; (3) Therese is knitting three-fingered gloves for lepers; Pierre suggest that a pair of socks would do; they both giggle demurely.
A welcome antithesis to such priceless Christmastime mainstays as MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), LE PERE NOEL EST UNE ORDURE! is guaranteed to lift your spirits the next time holiday depression sets in. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1982
- Rating: NR
- Review: Set in the offices of a suicide hotline, this cheerfully misanthropic farce follows the fates of a half-dozen screwups as they stumble their way through the last hours of Christmas Eve. Based on a hit play, it became a cult film in France and was remade in… (more)