// Presented as part of Filmatique's American Indie Series //
Exclusive Interview with Charles Poekel
Spotlight on Christmas, Again
Charles Poekel / US, 2014 / Sundance, Cleveland, IndieLisboa, Locarno, Maryland, New Directors/New Films, NYT Critics' Pick, Oak Cliff / 80'
Noel, a melancholy 20-something, has returned for the fifth year to a Greenpoint street corner to sell Christmas trees. He spends the season living in a cold trailer, warming himself by the stove, and contriving of answers to a question his customers keep asking him: "where's that nice girl from last year?" One cold night Noel helps a young woman who has fallen asleep, inebriated, on a park bench. Rather than the start of a romance, his friendship with this stranger perhaps heralds the beginning of a new year.
Capturing the wintry atmosphere of New York alongside the eccentricities of its denizens, Christmas, Again is a low-key, naturalistic portrait of an average man attempting to overcome loss. Charles Poekel's first feature premiered at Sundance, Locarno, IndieLisboa, Cleveland, Maryland, and Lincoln Center's New Directors/New Films, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and is a NYT Critics' Pick.
"One of the most important challenges for a director (along with the cinematographer and editor of any given film) is to create the proper mood for the story. Mood may be more important than words, because words come out of— or are contextualized by— mood. Mood is ephemeral, but it helps establish point of view and orients us in the dream-space of the film. With all of the things that Christmas, Again... does well (and it does almost everything well), the most striking thing about it is its evocation of an extremely specific mood. Once we settle into it, and it happens early, everything else becomes possible... It's a beautifully observed film... drenched in melancholy and silence and cold. Things sometimes resolve themselves, gently, only it's fragmentary, and none of it is "the point." The point is that Noel is a guy living a specific life in a specific season, dealing with emotions that are all over his face but never verbalized. There is no self-pity, no maudlin catharsis. The film has the courage of its convictions and confidence in its mood. What a pleasure to watch a film that resists being about only one thing. That resists the conventional story. That lets us enter into the life of another"
- Sheila O'Malley, Film Review, Roger Ebert