Sunday, June 26, 2011

Movie of
the Month:
Part 29

I recently
the follow-
ing DVD
for Video Librarian, and thought the results were worth sharing.

Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories [***]
(David Kaplan, 1992-1997, US, 12+ mins.)

Bettelheim suggested that traditional fairy tales, with the darkness of
abandonment, death, witches, and injuries, allowed children to grapple
with their fears in remote, symbolic terms. If they could read and inter-
pret these fairy tales in their own way, he believed, they would get a
greater sense of meaning and purpose. Bettelheim thought that by en-
gaging with these socially-evolved stories, children would go through
emotional growth that would better prepare them for their own futures.

--Wikipedia entry on Bruno Bettelheim

This unique release offers three short literary adaptations from
1992-1997. Christina Ricci stars in the first as a less-than-
innocent Little Red Riding Hood. In adapting "Conte de la Mére
Grande," director David Kaplan (Year of the Fish) eschews
dialogue and shoots in Expressionist B&W. As in the famous
fairy tale, Red meets Wolf (Timour Bourtasenkov), an androg-
ynous dancer in stylized garb, en route to Granny's house.

Once she arrives, Red finds meat and wine on the table, and digs
in, even though the talking cat (a puppet) explains their grim
provenance. After that, Wolf asks her to disrobe and climb into
bed, which she does before taking a break (for "pee-pee" as nar-
rator Quentin Crisp puts it). It isn't clear if Wolf means to
seduce or to kill her, but her final act clarifies the matter.

Billed as a "cautionary tale," Heinrich Hoffman's Little Suck-a-
revolves around a boy (an adult Cork Hubbert) with poor
impulse control. This time, Kaplan films with color and sound. Af-
ter tucking him into bed, his mother (Evelyn Solann) warns that
he'll lose his thumbs if he sucks them, but he can't resist, and a
pale tailor (Jim Hilbert) with scissors pays a late-night visit.

Kaplan returns to silent-film mode with the Brothers Grimm's The
Frog King
, which relays the tale of a girl (Eden Riegel) and a par-
ticularly grotesque frog (another puppet) who retrieves her lost
doll from a well in hopes that she'll sleep with him. (Their conver-
sation plays out though a series of title cards in which the words
"in your bed" get bigger and bigger.) When the girl reneges, the
frog follows her home to ensure that she honors her promise.

This set includes commentary on all three films from folklore
scholar Jack Zipes and Kaplan, who cites artist/filmmaker Jean
(La Belle et la Bête, Orphée) and author/child psycho-
logist Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses of Enchantment) as influen-
ces. Fans of Terry Gilliam, the Brothers Quay, and Guy Maddin,
and will surely find this collection of interest. Recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 28: Carancho

Endnote: Click here for my review of Penelope, a post-mil-
lennial fairy tale with Christina Ricci and James McAvoy.
Slightly revised from the original text. Image from MUBI.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sassy Sings

I named my tiny cat Lola after the
gender-bending Kinks classic, but if I
had to do it all over again, I'd credit
"Whatever Lola Wants, " the slinky
number from
1955's Damn Yankees
(Richard Adler and Jerry Ross), be-
cause I find her as "irresistible" as the
lady in question, the devil's assistant

Whatever the sleek, grey Lola wants--food, water, a rub on the
tummy--she gets. It doesn't matter what I'm doing at the time.
She looks up at me with those pleading eyes, and I'm a goner.

Vaughan and Ray Davies offer but two examples; Lola appears in
various guises throughout entertainment history, like the cabaret
entertainer Marlene Dietrich plays in von Sternberg's The Blue An-
(Der Blaue Engel) or the central figure in Barry Manilow's 19-
78 hit "Copacabana" ("Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl...").

As a rule, she's a femme fatale; lovely to look at, but hardly trust-
worthy, i.e. "You can't win" against one. Sounds like a cat to me!

And here's another one of my favorite performances from the Div-
ine One (1924-1990), who was at her best in noir mode. Plenty of
other ladies have tackled this 1948 Sonny Burke and Paul Francis
Webster composition, but Vaughan trumps them all (dig the way
the burst of brass at the end adds a caffeine-like kick). According
to Wikipedia, she "charted with this song in 1949 on Columbia."
I also enjoy the smokey renditions by Peggy Lee and k.d. lang.

Endnote: Image from the PBS site for Jazz: A Film
by Ken Burns
(courtesy of Frank Driggs Collection).

Thursday, June 02, 2011

June Reviews

These are the reviews
and other pieces I'm
working on this month.

Amazon DVDs: Shadow
& Lies
(with James Franco), Hawthorne - The Complete Second Season [three-disc set], Leverage - The Third Season [four-disc set], and Lifetime's Taken from Me - The Tiffany Rubin Story.

Amazon Theatricals: X-Men: First Class (with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence),
Andrew Haigh's
Weekend, and Na Hong-Jin's The Yellow Sea.

Armchair Commentary: Peter Falk obituary.

Still playing (or yet to open): Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Cir-
, The Conspirator, Forks over Knives, The Greatest Mo-
vie Ever Sold
, I Am, Jane Eyre, Water for Elephants, and Win Win.

SIFFBlog: SIFF Dispatch #4, SIFF Dispatch #5, and Cracks
(Jordan Scott's debut with Eva Green and Juno Temple).

Video Librarian: Fest Selects: Best Lesbian Shorts, Vol.
, Black Death, Broken Hill, Hobo with a Shotgun, Under the
[2-disc set], The Other Woman, Brain Freeze, Brok-
en Doors
, Life Without - Youth with Incarcerated Parents Tell
Their Own Stories, Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories
(with Christina Ricci and Quentin Crisp), Minds on the Edge -
Facing Mental Illness
, Sex in an Epidemic, The Storytel-
ling Class
, These Are Our Children, Trust - Second Ac-
ts in Young Lives
, Women of Faith - Women of the
Catholic Church Speak
, Born Innocent (with Lin-
da Blair), Night After Night (1979 Catherine
film with Joe Dallesandro), Sis-
ters of War
, Summer Eleven, and
Vanishing on 7th Street

Endnote: Image of X-Men: First Class's Magneto
(Michael Fassbender) from © Twentieth Century Fox.