Will It Snow for Christmas? [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (19th November 2017).
The Film

"Will It Snow for Christmas?" ("Y'aura t'il de la neige à Noël?") (1996)

On a rural farm in the south of France, a mother (played by Dominique Reymond) is raising seven children. The oldest a teenager and the youngest an infant, the children bond together to help each other and their mother through the tough seasons but even tougher in their life is their father (played by Daniel Duval). The father actually has a differing wife and lives on a differing farm, and visits the mother and seven children when he needs their help for physical labor and basically nothing in terms of love and affection. The children all feel distraught whenever he arrives and the mother must deal with that as the father provides them with money, as little as it is. Though the entire family suffers from poverty and a lack of basic needs, the family of eight without the father figure must do whatever it takes to keep things from falling apart.

"Will It Snow for Christmas?" was the directorial debut of Sandrine Veysset, who grew up on a farm in southern France. Writing a screenplay with memories of her childhood as well as many fictional happenings, the story was a bleak yet somehow hopeful look at a family in an unfortunate situation. Working with a group of non-professional child actors which most made their first and only film role, the seven children and Reymond lived together on the actual farm where the film was shot for a three week period before the actual shoot, all forced to use their characters' names and live like an actual family. For the children their parents would be able to visit or take them home on the weekends so in some sense it was like a summer camp in preparation for the actual shoot. Although the children were able to bond together for characterization and were able to have some improvised play and scenes incorporated, the film was mostly through the perspective of the mother and her struggles through the varying seasons on the farm.

The film deals with a multitude of topics - poverty, the bond of family, children seeing the seemingly bleak world, teenage rebellion, broken morals. The elder children ponder about the family just leaving the farm and the father behind to start a better life, and yes that would be a better option for all. But the mother gives the excuse that it would be unfair to the younger children, as to suddenly leave the farm would be difficult. Is that the real reason? The mother does give the excuse and even though she sees the father as a figure of force, she does not want to leave him behind. She loves him and wishes one day he would leave his wife and live with her and the seven children together happily, but as the audience and the children know that will never be. Like anyone continuing affairs for years on end, others will think "Why?" as it causes pain on the already married side and being selfish. For the characters in this story the affair has been going on for more than a decade. Is the mother that naive? Is she a wishful thinker? Is she really thinking about the well being of her children forced to work and live very poor lives? As there might be some anger directed towards the mother for her actions over all this time, she is still a loving mother that does her best to keep the children together. Will there be a happy ending for this family? Will the children one day break free and never return? We may never know but we can all imagine that with the closeknit relationship that they have with each other, there may be a brighter light in the future.

Shot on Super 16mm with a limited budget, Veysset enlisted cinematographer Hélène Louvart and editor Nelly Quettier to work on the film, making the production very female centered in both behind and in front of the camera. The look of the film is certainly striking with the color palate reflecting the different seasons shown chronologically, from the bright yellows and reds of the summer to the cold skies and faces in the winter season. "Will It Snow for Christmas?" was very well received by critics when it was first released in late 1996, with comparisons to the films of Ken Loach and Maurice Pialat in the settings, tone, and the drama, and won the 1996 Entrevues Film Festival Grand Prix, the César Award for "Best First Work" in 1997 and many more accolades. While it received releases in various countries including the United States and the United Kingdom, the film never quite reached the critical praise or exposure compared to that of its native France. With this release of the film by the BFI, it presents the home video debut for the film in the UK, just over 20 years since its cinema release.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray which can only play back on region B or region free Blu-ray players

Video

The BFI presents the film in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec, in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The original Super 16mm camera negative was used for the restoration, scanned at 2K at the Digimage Classics Laboratory, and the transfer was supervised by director Sandrine Veysset and cinematographer Hélène Louvart. The restored transfer looks excellent for the most part, with the bright colors of the summertime, and the cooler tones of the fall and winter scenes showcased and presented very well. As it is was shot on Super 16, it does have its limitations in detail. On a more positive side, dust, debris, or scratches have completely been removed and the image is almost always quite stable. An excellent looking restoration and well done transfer by the BFI.

The film is uncut with a runtime of 91:04.

Note the following screenshots are taken from the DVD of the dual format release















Audio

French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo

There are two audio tracks for the film. The 5.1 track and the 2.0 stereo track are both presented lossless. The 5.1 track is not the most active track, with dialogue being centered and the occasional surround channels being used for music purposes, and very subtly. The 2.0 track is similar in that there are very few instances of stereo separation. The re are no issues of audio dropouts or errors in the track, which was also remastered from the original elements. Dialogue is always clear and easy to hear and music is well balanced.

There are optional English subtitles for the main feature presented in a white font. Well timed and easy to read, there are no issues with the subtitles to be found.

Extras

The BFI's release of "Will It Snow for Christmas?" is a dual format Blu-ray+DVD release, with the film and extras presented on the Blu-ray disc and repeated on a region 2 PAL encoded DVD.


DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Extras (with Play All) (47:57)

- Trailer (1:39)
The restored original French trailer is presented along with a still advertisement for the French Blu-ray of the film, released by Carlotta in 2015.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.66:1, in French LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles

- "Tout en liberté!" featurette (30:50)
This 2015 featurette has director Sandrine Veysset and cinematographer Hélène Louvart reuniting to discuss the film they had made 20 years ago. Veysset discusses her inspiration from working with Leos Carax who encouraged her to write the story as well as the encouragement from producer Humbert Balsam, as well as some of the surprising aspects of her directorial debut. The commune they set up for the actors and how the film was not in fact an autobiography. Louvart discusses more about the shooting process, from the lighting, the color palate, using bleach bypass for certain scenes, and the decision to shoot in Super 16 plus more. There is also short clips of VHS auditions, though we expected to see more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in French LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles

- "Terre-Mère-Amour" featurette (15:27)
This 2015 featurette has actress Dominique Reymond recalling her role as the mother in the film. From the weeks of preparation to get used to the farm life and working with the seven children, her thoughts on the filming process and the reaction to the finished film, she has many positive things to say about the film.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in French LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles


DISC TWO (DVD)
The film and the extras are repeated on the region 2 PAL DVD.


Booklet
A 20 page booklet is included. First is the essay "A Winter's Tale" by critic Jonathan Romney. Next is a biography on Veysset also written by Romney. There is also a review of the film by Jane Clarke from the November 1997 issue of Sight & Sound, film credits, special features credits, transfer information, acknowledgements, and photos.


As stated, the film was previously released on Blu-ray in France by Carlotta in 2015, with the exact same featurettes and trailer. The BFI release adds a booklet and English options making it a more attractive release for non-French speakers.

Overall

"Will It Snow for Christmas?" is a work that looks at poverty and a bleak family life with no easy answers. But as sad as it seems, there is always a sense of hope and togetherness with the family showcased. The acclaimed French film finally receives a welcome UK home video release through the BFI and with an excellent transfer and good extras, it does come as recommended.

The Film: B+ Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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