Le père Noël a les yeux bleus | Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes
DIRECTOR: Jean Eustache | WRITER: Jean Eustache | CAST: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Gérard Zimmerman, Henri Martinez, René Gilson, Jean Eustache | France
My introduction to the films of Jean Eustache and I suppose it could have been a lot worse since I was expecting, I don’t know, something difficult. Le père Noël a les yeux bleus is a feature-length film according to the all-knowing, all-powerful Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but at 47 minutes it doesn’t quite have the heft I expect from a feature. But who am I to argue with Rule 19? The movie is very New Wavey, kind of sweet with a sort of melancholy air, about an aimless and unemployed young man, Daniel, who hangs around in cafés and on the streets of Narbonne with his equally aimless friends, smoking, people-watching, talking about girls. Daniel thinks that if he scrapes together the money to buy a fashionable hooded duffel coat the girls will flock to him, and to that end he lands a part-time job with a photographer as a streetcorner Santa Claus. In costume, Daniel loses his self-consciousness and is more forward with girls than he ever previously allowed himself to be and the girls respond to him, but only when he’s in Santa drag. Much of the film is improvised, or feels improvised, and it’s shot in a slightly distanced, cinéma-vérité style. Godard was apparently so impressed with Eustache’s first film that he gave him B&W 35mm film stock left over from Masculin féminin to shoot this film; I only wish the print I saw had been better. If I have a problem with the film it’s Jean-Pierre Léaud as Daniel. I find it hard to suspend my disbelief enough to accept the premise that such a striking-looking and even charismatic young man could be the hopeless failure with girls that he’s meant to be, but I find that true of Jean-Pierre Léaud generally. One nice touch is that neither Daniel nor his friends actually learn anything from their (non-)experiences: they’re the same aimless bunch of drifters at the end that they were at the beginning.