As convoluted as it is superbly acted, Desplechin's ensemble piece inevitably acknowledges Renoir's Rules of the Game. At once avant and retro, A Christmas Tale is the sort of Palm-friendly movie-movie Desplechin's admirers always thought he could contrive. It's a definite advance, but the comeback of the festival (or perhaps the century) belongs to 70-year-old Jerzy Skolimowski — making his first feature in 17 years and his first film in his native land since 1966.

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