And now we defer to the merry holiday. For wicked wunnerful, ya can’t beat “The Junky’s Christmas.” It’s the perfect gift. Originally produced in 1993 and presented by Francis Ford Coppola, the film has just been released on DVD. It combines claymation and live action, and the pristine cinematography in black and white looks gorgeous.
William S. Burroughs, who wrote the tale way back in 1952, narrates. Christmas music swells as the camera tilts in on him, standing by the living room fireplace. He takes a book down from the shelf and sits in an armchair by the fire. Gifts beneath the decorated Christmas tree are waiting to be unwrapped. His eye watches, all-seeing, like a wise old elephant’s eye. He reads from the book in a deadpan voice, his clipped Midwestern accent offering dry counterpoint to the swollen music:
It was Christmas Day and Danny the Car Wiper hit the street junksick and broke after seventy-two hours in the precinct jail. It was a clear bright day, but there was warmth in the sun. Danny shivered with an inner cold. He turned up the collar of his worn, greasy black overcoat.
This beat benny wouldn’t pawn for a deuce, he thought.
He was in the West Nineties. A long block of brownstone rooming houses. Here and there a holy wreath in a clean black window. …
And so begins a tale to cherish. Jean Shepherd and Lenny Bruce would be jealous.
Incidental intelligence: The DVD also includes two VH-1 music films, “Ironbound” and “Traveling Light” — neither one related to “The Junky’s Christmas” and both, to my taste, fine examples of pretentious drek. No matter. Ya don’t hafta watch ’em.
Postscript: realitystudio.org has posted a Burroughs expert’s detailed review of “The Junky’s Christmas.” Verdict? “It’s a small masterpiece.”