Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 182: Nico z Alenky (aka Alice) (1988) - Rank 4/5


When the photos of Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter were leaked onto the Internet a couple of weeks back, a scary thing happened - I almost drowned when every female between the ages of twelve and forty simultaneously got wet at the sight of the shot. I won't knock it too much, because it does look cool...but that's Burton's trouble. He knows how to make a film that dazzles the eye with fantastic visuals, but often the substance behind the film is lost, leaving you with a veritable "cinematic Faberge egg." Beautiful to gaze at, but hollow inside. In fact, I've long said that Tim Burton fans are the only folks more forgiving than George Lucas fans, but I won't deny that with titles like "Beetlejuice," "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" or "Ed Wood" that the director has a more impressive and diverse filmography than does Lucas.

All my skepticism aside, I'm still curious to see how the director's adaptation of Lewis Carroll's psychedelic childen's tale will come across (especially since it's plot is more reminiscent of the screenplay for "hook" that its true source material). Whatever the outcome, I can honestly say that it will unlikely top the bizarre and terrifying nature of Jan Swankmajer's take on the tale. This Czechoslovakian production would best be described as a stop-motion nightmare. With some of the best effects work outside of a Harryhausen film, Swankmajer animates the characters from the story in unsettling manners. The caterpillar is of many socks that spends its nights eating at the floorboards - a sock that sews in its own eyes and dentures, that is. The Mad Hatter is a well-worn ventriloquism dummy. The white rabbit is a reanimated piece of taxidermy that is forever eating sawdust to keep itself from deflating.

I made the comment in my review of "Interstella 5555" that I felt like I needed to be on drugs to watching the film. In this case, I thank the heavens that I wasn't on anything, for it was creepy enough sober. The film did feel terribly slow at times though, and I feel that a simple soundtrack would have easily staved this off. There was also the incessant narration of Alice, where she did the voices of all characters, and almost every line of dialog was followed by a shot of her lips saying "said the White Rabbit" (or whatever other character had spoken. While annoying at first, I was able to tune it out after a while. Actually, most of the film is free of dialog. My main consensus after watching this title is not only can it not be topped by Burton, but that I also must view more of Svankmajer's work if this is typical for the director.

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