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Alice and Other Lost Girls in Fantastic Worlds

Synopsis:

Alice and Other Lost Girls in Fantastic Worlds

Friday, April 6, 2012 | 7:30 pm

ALICE 1988/color/86 min.
Scr/dir: Jan Svankmajer; w/ Kristýna Kohoutová.

After twenty-five years creating some of cinema’s most indelible stop-motion shorts, “militant surrealist” Jan Svankmajer took the leap into feature filmmaking with this most fitting adaptation. Blending live-action with puppets, Svankmajer transforms Lewis Carroll’s episodic fantasy into a saga of sinister, voluptuous whimsy. A flesh-and-blood Alice is both narrator and protagonist, addressing the audience at the film’s start to say, “Alice thought to herself, ‘Now you will see a film for children . . . perhaps.” Svankmajer’s basement “wonderland” of taxidermied creatures and sundry everyday items evokes a Joseph Cornell bricolage crossed with a butcher’s display case. "Disney + Buñuel = Svankmajer's Alice."—Milos Forman.


Friday, April 6, 2012 | 9:05 pm

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS 1970/color/77 min.
dir: Jaromil Jireš; w/ Jaroslava Schallerová, Helena Anýzová, Petr Kopriva, Jirí Prýmek.

Valerie and her Week of Wonders meshes a coming-of-age allegory with baroque fantasy, trippy horror, and potent symbolism. Equal parts old-world superstition and Victorian fairy tale, Valerie infuses its splintered narrative with hippie audacity. Living with her grandmother in a Transylvanian hamlet, teenage Valerie walks a fine line between dream state and waking life after she begins to menstruate. Past and present merge, characters take on multiple identities, vampires, priests, and other strange creatures abound. A lasting cult classic, Valerie most recently had a substitute to its original Luboš Fišer score created by a psych-rock supergroup that calls itself The Valerie Project. Imported 35mm print!


Saturday, April 7, 2012 | 5 pm

ALICE IN WONDERLAND 1933/b&w/76 min.
dir: Norman Z. McLeod; w/ Charlotte Henry, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Edward Everett Horton, Charles Ruggles, Mae Marsh, Roscoe Karns, Jack Okie, Baby LeRoy, Edna May Oliver, May Robson, Louise Fazenda.

The sound era’s first major adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” story, Norman McLeod’s Alice in Wonderland boasts an all-star cast of Paramount players: from Cary Grant and Gary Cooper to W.C. Fields and Lubitsch regulars Edward Everett Horton and Charles Ruggles, along with Griffith supporting star, Mae Marsh. Interweaving episodes from both of Carroll’s Alice books, the film is both madcap and mordant. Though directed by McLeod, the film’s expressionistic and claustrophobic tone is largely due to its co-screenwriter/art director William Cameron Menzies, whose career after Alice veered from Hollywood spectacles such as Gone with the Wind and Duel in the Sun to dark, atomic-age fantasies such as Things to Come and Invaders from Mars. “As dazzling as today’s digital effects can be, we remain all too aware of how they are accomplished (computers!) for them to possess the seductive sense of mystification that Menzies and McLeod achieved here, using practical techniques derives from Victorian stage magic.”—Dave Kehr, New York Times.


Saturday, April 7, 2012 | 7:30 pm

DAISIES / FRUITS OF PARADISE

Daisies: 1966/color/74 min. | dir: Vera Chytilová; w/ Jitka Crhová, Ivana Karbanová, Julius Albert.

A milestone in the Czech New Wave, Vera Chytilová’s parable, Daisies, follows two young girls, both named Marie, as they embark upon an anarchic series of escapades and impromptu happenings. Exclaiming “one should try everything,” they play pranks, get drunk, gorge themselves and engage in all manners of homespun absurdism with complete abandon as Chytilová douses them in shifting colors and random visual effects. A Dadaist comedy shot through with freeform largesse, Daisies is co-written by Ester Krumbachová, who not only worked with Chytilová on its follow-up, We Eat the Fruit of the Trees of Paradise, but also the darker Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. Held from release by the censors for longer than a year, Daisies was promptly banned after a brief run. But over the years it’s legacy has quietly grown, and it’s influence can be found in films ranging from Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating to Athina Rachel Tsangari (whose Attenberg was released this year) and Jennifer West. “Masterpiece . . . looks better every year—it’s amazing that this feminist Duck Soup is not yet regarded as a classic.”—J. Hoberman, Village Voice.

Followed by:

We Eat the Fruit of the Trees of Paradise
Reteaming with her Daisies collaborators—cinematographer Jaroslav Kucera and screenwriter Ester Krumbachova—while adding soundscapes by avant-garde composer Zdeněk Liška (Marketa Lazarova, The Little Mermaid, various Svankmajer shorts), Chytilová presents a modern-day, pungently psychedelic reimagining of the Adam and Eve story in We Eat the Fruit of the Trees of Paradise. Eden is a pastoral resort, and, as Eve explores its leafy vastness (all the while tailed by a bearded Satan), Chytilová unleashes a cavalcade of effects—multiple exposures, step printing, frantic edits, slow motion—that echo her protagonist’s visionary experience. Premiered at the 1970 edition of Cannes, We Eat the Fruit of the Trees of Paradise never had a U.S. release. Imported 35mm prints!


Saturday, April 14, 2012 | 5 pm

ALICE IN WONDERLAND 1951/color/75 min.
dir: Clyde Geronimo, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson; w/ Kathryn Beaumont, Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn, Sterling Holloway.

Internationally beloved by children of all ages, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland remains the most iconic adaptation of the Lewis Carroll story. Described by Walt Disney himself as having “the tempo of a three-ring circus, it still has plenty of entertainment [that] should satisfy everyone except a certain handful who can never be satisfied,” the film streamlines Carroll’s original into a brisk and musical seventy-five minutes. With its vivid colors, lushly drawn foliage, and indelibly voiced characters—the Caterpillar, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat—Disney’s Alice in Wonderland has never lost its ability to dazzle. “A monument to a technical mastery of the form that the Disney artists could perhaps equal but not surpass.”—Robin Allan, Sight and Sound. Restored 35mm print!


Saturday, April 14, 2012 | 7:30 pm

ALICE IN WONDERLAND 1948/color/96 min.
dir: Dallas Bower; w/ Carol Marsh, Stephen Murray, Pamela Brown.
In this little-seen adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, Lou Bunin blends live-action with stop-motion animation to adapt the Carroll original, forty-years before Jan Svankmajer would do the same. A prologue finds Alice and her sisters boating in Oxford with whimsical mathematician Charles Dodgson (better-known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll) with a royal visit as a backdrop, rooting Carroll’s anthropomorphic fantasy in a real, Victorian milieu. An innovator of puppet animation, the American-born Bunin worked with Diego Rivera as a muralist before turning to cinema. Shot in two languages, English and French, across three cities—Nice, Paris, and London—the film boats a formidable crew, many of whom would soon be blacklisted: cinematographer Claude Renoir, composer Sol Kaplan, and screenwriters Henry Myers and Edward Eliscu.

Bunin’s film was plagued with complications. Denied color stock from Technicolor, Bunin settled on the inferior Ansco process. Once completed, the film was held from release due to a lawsuit from Disney. When it was finally set for release in 1951, theater chains wouldn’t book it in deference to the Disney adaptation, and it was subsequently banned in England for more than thirty years due to its depiction of Queen Victoria. A true rarity, the film was largely unseen until the mid-1980s and is once again available in 35mm thanks to a restoration by the Museum of Modern Art. Restored 35mm print!

Followed by Brothers Quay shorts:

Are We Still Married? 1992/b&w/4 min. | New 35mm print!
Identical twins born in Pennsylvania but long based in London, the Brothers Quay belong in the lineage of groundbreaking stop-motion animators that also includes Vladislav Starevich, Lou Bunin, and Jan Svankmajer. Commissioned as a music video for a dream-pop single by the band His Name is Alive, this Alice variation stars a ragged doll in striped socks, a white rabbit, and a manic ping-pong ball star in a hypnotic and eerie reverie.

The Comb 1991/color/18 min. | New 35mm print!
The Brothers Quay enter the mind of a sleeping woman, burrow into her dreams, and reveal a labyrinthine playhouse haunted by a doll-like explorer. Based on a fragment of text by the Austrian writer Robert Walser, this blend of live-action and stop-motion animation is a sensuous and mesmerizing vision of the unconscious.

 

Genre:

Experimental / Avant GardeFantasy 

Upcoming showings: