Alice (adult animation)
Sound: C- Extras: C+ Film: B
this film’s cult?
Alice, the first feature by Czech
filmmaker and animation guru Jan Svankmajer, is a small but spectacular oddity
that has somehow been overlooked by “cinema of the weird” devotees. Surrealism is full tilt as Svankmajer –
card-carrying member of the Prague Surrealist Group – interprets Lewis
Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” with a mixture of one live actress, a ton of
stop-motion animation, and all the darker elements that Disney set aside.
Alice, played – essentially without a word – by Kristyna Kohoutova, is dreaming
of course (the opening voiceover states that before we begin, she must close
her eyes), turning the junk of some strange room into the stuff of her
nightmares. A fleeing rabbit, literally
a hunting trophy come to life, re-animated
via stop-motion – who’s “late for the queen” draws Alice down into a maze of
perilous chambers where she encounters all manner of bizarre creatures and grows
and shrinks (to doll form) when she bites a cookie or sips some ink. She catches up to the rabbit here and there
when he stops to replenish the sawdust in his stomach – one of the film’s many
deliciously odd images; another of the rabbit’s moments is a nod to Kubrick’s The Shining that had me laughing out
loud. As madness runs higher and higher
– by the time we reach the Mad Hatter, it’s all completely unhinged – Alice
remains curiously unconcerned; unsurprised even. It’s an interesting touch – Alice is technically creating all this – that Kohoutova, with her
remarkably expressive face, pulls off nicely.
style brings to mind Terry Gilliam, who also has a background in animation,
with his gleeful and inspired mess-making, and author Roald Dahl, whose
children’s stories really put young characters through the wringer. But the animation of Alice definitely has a signature on it. It’s rough – next to Disney’s polished efforts The Nightmare Before Christmas and James
and the Giant Peach, it has the charming look of something created by hand by a small but professional crew
– and aggressive – the use of real (once living) animals and skeletons is
unique and striking. You’ll want
more. You’ll want to get to know Mr.
and sound quality of First Run Features’ Alice
disc, though far from exemplary, are acceptable. Presented full frame (1.33:1), which appears to be correct, the
source print is a bit on the spotty side, with a fair amount of artifacts and
other blemishes. The transfer is
surprisingly sharp, though, considering, and visible compression is
minimal. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
soundtrack does little more than serve its purpose; it sounds full and
reasonably clear, but otherwise unremarkable.
sole extra is Darkness Light Darkness,
a 7 minute short by Svankmajer. Picture
and sound quality are lacking, but the film itself, like Alice, is a grimy, handmade treasure.
- Chad Eberle