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Alice (1988) * Weird & Wacky *

 

Hell yeah, giant girls who try to eat everything ARE scary!
Hell yeah, giant girls who try to eat everything ARE scary!

Genre: Avant-Garde Animation Fantasy Horror (Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, UK, West Germany)

Starring: Kristýna Kohoutová

Directed By: Jan Svankmajer (Little Otik Faust)

Overview: This haunting retelling of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland includes a taxidermist's white rabbit,  scores of strange little creatures of fur and bone, and a hungry adventurous girl who often shrinks to the size of a doll.

Performance:

This little eight year-old actress was always distant and cold in her expressions and her reactions to the world around her.  Indeed this aspect of the film enhances the creepy factor, reinforcing the fact that she is an outsider affecting the world in ways she cannot possibly know.  To have someone fumbling around this way in a strange and fantastical world, it’s the most believable of the events that take place, and frightening in an introspective way, when you consider how we would most likely do many of the same things, just for the sake of experimentation.
Rating: 9

Cinematography:

Often similar to the animation of The Brothers Quay, the style of Jan Svankmajer is one of bleak visuals and disconcerting characters.  Rather than filling a mystical world with beautiful visions and magnificent creatures, we are left hounded by the oddities before us:  a large-eyeballed skull wearing a jester's cap driving a carriage led not by horses, but by chickens with skulls for heads.  A sock with bulging eyeballs and dentures plays the caterpillar, a Queen of Hearts who's commands of "Off with their heads!" is hastily answered with a pair of enormous scissors. Certainly not animation to send your children to bed to.
Rating: 9

Script:

I suppose the most annoying part of the film is the third person narration, because after a character speaks, there's a cut to an extreme close-up of Alice's lips as she adds "...shouted the white rabbit" or "...cried The Queen of Hearts".  Luckily it's not done often.  What I like best about Svankmajer is that he doesn't use dialogue often, preferring to let the character's actions speak for them.
Rating: 8

Plot:

For as much as I like this man's work, I will warn you that Alice is ultimately thin-plotted, assuming, much as was done with Faust, that the viewer knows the story being re-told with an experimental flair.  If it's not your type of thing, the trip you take down the rabbit hole might not be as interesting.  If you know Alice in Wonderland and you like creepy puppets acting out the basics, then you can string the story together quite nicely.
Rating: 7

Mood:

A total mind game, we're taken from a bored girl's day into a fantasy, where she chases a taxidermist’s rabbit deeper into danger.  As she follows the torn bunny, constantly eating sawdust to replenish the stuff that falls out of him, our hungry heroin drinks ink and eats tarts, shrinking and growing enough times to make even the heads of Jefferson Airplane spin.  The fun with this one is in understanding the familiar, but seeing the insanity of this surreality.
Rating: 8


Of course, so are the skulls trying to eat back...
Of course, so are the skulls trying to eat back...

Overall Rating: 82% (Full Of Wonder)
Aftertaste:

And there's even a bonus to the DVD, a 6-minute neat little short called Darkness/Light/Darkness, or the story of a bunch of body parts gettin' together.  I'm sure one day I'll make Jan Svankmeyer one of my worthy Names of Note. Besides being one of my most influential directors thematically (with his creepy adult Avant-Garde stop motion), he's a storyteller after my own heart, indulging in the realm of Fantasy, Horror and well-known myth, putting his own spin on it.  I will recomend that you see something of this animator's someday, especially if understandable Avant-Garde is you thing.  Talk about transporting you to another world.

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