Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Least-Known Christmas Classic

Despite critics and commercials, movies are rarely art. Yet, one such undisputed work exists but is rarely seen in the season of Dickens and “Die Hard.”

It is “The Dead,” by John Huston, an acknowledged master of craft who directed Oscar-worthy entertainments from “The Maltese Falcon” to “Prizzi’s Honor” over almost 50 years. For what would be his last, he chose a short story by James Joyce about a Christmas dinner in turn-of-the-century Dublin, with a script by his son Tony and starring his daughter Angelica.

It is art, acknowledged as “perfect” by critics on every level, evoking deep feelings of longing and loss. For Huston, a man with a disorderly life who was portrayed as irascible by Clint Eastwood in a movie about the making of “The African Queen,” it was the summing up of a span that started with being the son of an actor and ended with this benediction of a movie about life, longing and loss made with his own children.

“The Dead” is available by streaming from Netflix. Those whose tastes run deeper than Dickens have it waiting to entrance them.

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