Beauty and the Beast (1978)
From critic Dennis Grunes:
Juraj Herz, whose brilliant Cremator (1968) is a very dark comedy about Nazism, wartime occupation, and the Holocaust, ten years later would make perhaps the most beauteous film ever that’s drawn from fairy-tale material. This is Panna a netvor (The Virgin and the Monster), from Mme Leprince de Beaumont’s eighteenth-century “La Belle et la Bête.” It is not, like Jean Cocteau’s great 1946 version, a thrilling allegory of the Occupation and Liberation of France; it is Czech, after all. But there are flickers of political symbolism all the same. . . . Jirí Macháne’s gorgeous, dreamy color cinematography, sometimes showing voluminous mists of gray, is the year’s best.
The Singing Ringing Tree
Pop Void author Jim Morton, writer behind the excellent East German Cinema Blog, explains the Märchenfilme :
Of all the films made in East Germany, the Märchenfilme (fairytale films) fared the best when it came to western distribution. Thanks to kid film friendly companies such as K. Gordon Murray and Childhood Productions, these films were some of the very few that received U.S. distribution. East-West borders seemed to melt away with the Märchenfilme. Fairytales offered a nice neutral territory for both sides. Sure the rich are often the bad guys in the East German films, but they are in the original fairytales too. DEFA’s production standards didn’t hurt either. The films are colorful, imaginative, and well produced.
Morton also reviewed The Singing Ringing Tree:
Many Britons of a certain age share a collective memory so firmly etched in their psyches that the very mention of it brings back childhood nightmares. In 1964, BBC television serialized a film about a haughty princess, a prince that turns into a bear, a giant goldfish, and a really, really evil dwarf. So powerful are the memories of this film, that thirty-eight years later BBC Radio 4 did a program on the film’s effect on an entire generation. The film was called The Singing Ringing Tree, and none of those children could have known that they were watching a film that was the product of East Germany. Originally released in 1957, The Singing Ringing Tree (Das singende, klingende Bäumchen) was the fourth in what would become a long series of fairy tale films (Märchenfilme) made in East Germany. The film is very loosely based on the Brothers Grimm story, “The Singing, Springing Lark” (Das singende springende Löweneckerchen). The film tells the story of a handsome price who wishes to marry a beautiful, but extremely stuck-up, young princess. His gift of a box of pearls doesn’t impress her in the slightest. The only present that will persuade her to marry him is the fabled “singing, ringing tree.”
From Nitrate Online:
In The Garden, a directionless and rather puzzled young man moves to his late grandfather’s dilapidated country house. But peace is elusive, as nature and some rather mystical events conspire to teach him some valuable lessons. [Director Martin] Sulík employs a unique story structure, in that each ‘chapter’ is announced by an unknown narrator. The tone of the film is so consistent that, even when it turns inscrutible, audiences can trust the filmmaker to keep them interested.
From Images Journal:
Most Russian movies based on folk tales or fairy tales tend to be theatrical, but in Viy, directors Georgy Kropachyov and Konstantin Yershov use the camera is startling ways that even manage to foretell the hyper-kinetic camerawork of Hong Kong cinema–as when the witch’s coffin rises and flies through the air, spiraling around Thomas as he struggles to continue reading scripture. A typical Russian movie based on a folk tale (or on fantasy) — such as Sword and the Dragon (1956) — was filmed as if it were a drama on a stage. But here the camera is placed in the middle of the action. This approach is used throughout most of Viy–as when an elderly witch meets the theology student and offers to allow him to spend the night in her cottage. At midnight, she walks toward him ominously as the camera tracks in front of her, looking up at her face as she looms above. Sometimes the staging wavers toward the theatrical.
From the Village Voice:
Demy’s movie makes for an evocative globe-paperweight tableau of its place and time, and a concise demonstration of the disquietude inherent in classic fairy tales. That the story involves the marriage-lust of a grieving king (Cocteau axiom Jean Marais) for his luscious daughter (Catherine Deneuve) is only the tale’s wacky Freudian nut; around them gallops a soft parade of costume-ball silliness, frog-spitting hags, blue-skinned servants, talking yellow roses, out-of-body rendezvous, and fastidious gownery. Demy conscientiously contrasts authentic French castles and cardboard interiors, sun-sparkled northern French glades and hot-pink gel-splashes, sleight-of-hand F/X and fluorescent iris-outs. When muddleheaded fairy godmother Delphine Seyrig decides to change the color of her silk raiments, she does so via a simple Méliès jump cut.
The Dark Crystal
From critic Tasha Robinson:
Much of [the] trip simply seems designed to let [directors Jim] Henson and [Frank] Oz play with creatures and environments; the pacing is sometimes lumpy and the tone is portentous as Jen travels through landscapes richly appointed with exotic life, thanks to Froud’s fantasy designs. The story is a standard fairy-tale concoction, but the New Agey philosophy about healing and heroism makes for a classic Henson story, all heart and rapturous wonder at the world’s incredible possibilities.
Tale of Tales
From critic Giovanni Marchini Camia:
Tale of Tales, Matteo Garrone’s first English-language film as well as his first featuring an international cast, is an adaptation of three of the 50 fairy tales that make up Giambattista Basile’s Pentamerone, aka The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones (though this last part of the original’s title must have escaped Garrone). The Pentamerone was the original source for many of the Brothers Grimm’s most famous fairy tales, such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. Unsurprisingly, for his film Garrone chose three of the more obscure entries in Basile’s 17th-century collection… [Tales of Tales’ visuals] are a veritable triumph. A few negligible instances of ghastly CGI notwithstanding, the film is ravishing on every level. Costumes and make-up are lavish and uniformly stunning, the highly ornate indoor settings give each palace its own individually majestic flair, and the exquisite lighting of the exterior scenes, particularly those set in a moss-covered forest, endows the images with a painterly, otherworldly quality, conjuring a pitch-perfect aura of magic and reverie.
The Company of Wolves
From Roger Ebert:
“The Company of Wolves” is a dream about werewolves and little girls and deep, dark forests. It is not a children’s film and it is not an exploitation film; it is a disturbing and stylish attempt to collect some of the nightmares that lie beneath the surface of “Little Red Riding Hood.” . . . The movie is based on a novel and a screenplay by Angela Carter, who has taken Red Riding Hood as a starting-place for the stories, which are secretly about the fearsomeness of sexuality. She has shown us what those scary fairy tales are really telling us; she has filled in the lines and visualized the parts that the Brothers Grimm left out (and they did not leave out all that many parts). The movie has an uncanny, hypnotic force; we always know what is happening, but we rarely know why, or how it connects with anything else, or how we can escape from it, or why it seems to correspond so deeply with our guilts and fears. That is, of course, almost a definition of a nightmare.
From the Digital Fix:
For those unaware of Reiniger or her prolific output, it should be immediately noted that not only was she a distinctive filmmaker but also a pioneering one. The earliest short on this collection, a version of Cinderella from 1922, describes itself as being “told by a pair of scissors on a screen” and this is exactly how she worked. Reiniger’s films were all made in a singular silhouette style: intricately designed figures delicately animated against simple backgrounds to retell popular and much-loved stories, predominantly fairy tales as this collection suggests.
The Adventures of Pinocchio (1972)
This [Luigi] Comencini version of the adventures of Pinocchio is the arguably the most fateful to the original novel as well as perhaps the best, including some of the biggest names in Italian comedy of the seventies, like [Nino] Manfredi, [Gina] Lollobrigida and Vittorio de Sica.
The Red Shoes
From critic Sam Adams:
The Red Shoes is usually considered the Archers��� [Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger] masterpiece. The 1948 film, loosely taking its theme of artistic obsession from the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name, focuses on the battle between a young composer (Marius Goring) and a demanding ballet impresario (Anton Walbrook) over burgeoning prima ballerina Moira Shearer. Shot in dazzling color by cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who also worked with the Archers on A Matter of Life and Death and Black Narcissus), the film brilliantly turns Shearer’s ballets into psychodramatic landscapes. The audience disappears, and what starts out as a straightforward dance becomes a flight of purest fancy: Shearer plummets through the air like a goddess descending to earth, and the noise of applause becomes the sound of pounding surf.
The Little Match Girl
From DVD Talk:
This slight adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story [co-directed by Jean Renoir] stars Hessling as the titular heroine and is really only interesting for the early special effects efforts. Renoir uses models, rear projection, double-exposure, and fake backdrops to portray the fantasy journey of the Little Match Girl during her night out in the cold. Though some of the effects may look quaint to our modern eye, it’s still impressive when you put it in its historical context and has a cool, expressionistic quality. The movie overall is a bit of a snooze, however, with the performances and the editing being a bit too laconic.
From IMDb about Aleksandr Petrov’s Mermaid, based on traditional Slavic folklore, animated by manipulating pastel oil paintings on glass: “An elderly monk, while training the young novice who will succeed him, recalls the mysterious lost love of his past — just as his young successor appears to be encountering her himself.”
Briar-Rose or the Sleeping Beauty
From Nishikata Film Review:
[Director Kihachiro] Kawamoto lulls us into a true fairy tale setting beginning with the camera moving from a ring of hazy cherry blossoms towards the idyllic castle on the hill in the background. The puppets and sets are beautifully and intricately realized, and the music is lyrical. The first hint that there will be a darker theme comes with the dark lighting of the interior of the castle and with the solemn tone of the narrator, speaking in the role of our heroine: Briar Rose. The camera continues inwards until it reaches a medium shot of Briar Rose, who tilts her head to one side and gazes directly into the camera. As the image fades into an image of her as an infant we realise that the story of the film will mimic inward movement of the film and take us deep into the psyche of our heroine.
From critic J. Hoberman:
Psychologically rich, unobtrusively minimalist, at once admirably straightforward and slyly comic, Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard is a lucid retelling and simultaneous explanation of Charles Perrault’s nastiest, most un-Disneyfiable nursery story. This gruesome account of a wealthy serial wife-killer (the most celebrated ogre this side of Shrek) picks up where other fairy tales end. As noted by novelist Alison Lurie, “the real trouble begins after the wedding.”
Brotherhood of the Wolf
From Elvis Mitchell:
There’s no doubt that “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” the berserk yet entertaining French period drama and action picture — yes, that’s right — takes itself much too seriously. But that doesn’t mean you should, and you’ll probably have a good time if you don’t. . . . Mr. Gans is a shrewd filmmaker, and with the aid of his cinematographer, Dan Laustsen, he gives the film a luxuriant pictorial beauty. This beauty is just one more element that Mr. Gans uses to stack “Brotherhood” in his favor.
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
From Jonathan Rosenbaum:
Jaromil Jires’s overripe 1970 exercise in Prague School surrealism. The 13-year-old title heroine, who’s just had her first period, traipses through a shifting landscape of sensuous, anticlerical, and vaguely medieval fantasy-horror enchantments that register more as a collection of dream adventures, spurred by guiltless and polysexual eroticism, than as a conventional narrative.
An Ambiguous Report About the End of the World
From Harvard Film Archive:
This exquisitely crafted, surreal fairy tale for adults recounts the destruction of a remote mountain village (not unlike the one in which Jakubisko grew up) when it is thrust into contact with civilization. The prophecy of Nostradamus is fulfilled as wolves invade, houses sink into the ground, crops go up in flames, and helicopters attack. A bitter parable of mankind at the turn of the millennium, it nonetheless offers the hope and promise of children in a new world.
Son of the White Mare
From Sound on Sight:
As interesting as the structure and lore of the film is, the main focus is on the visual aspect. The art style is incredible: pastel and clashing colours are everywhere and are used to paint very trippy and beautiful art. The animation is fluid, with shapes morphing into others and back seamlessly – a road becomes a snake, the gap between two faces changes into a goblet – but these must be seen to grant them their full justice. The music mainly consists of ambient electronics and low vocal chants which add greatly to the majestic and otherworldly feel of the film and help strengthen the hypnotic quality of the visual art.
From Harvard Film Archive:
Embracing the whimsy and wonderment of [Georges Méliès] and working entirely within a Parisian sound stage, [director Kenneth] Anger painstakingly crafted a night forest with hand-painted leaves and trees as the setting for a sumptuous and sad tone poem about a clown enraptured by the moon.
The Story of the Fox
From critic Keith Allen:
The film is performed exclusively by puppets of animals moved by means of stunning, technically brilliant stop motion animation, and the effect the director achieves by populating his work solely with such puppets is truly bewitching. In fact, Starewicz’s animated creations lend the movie a palpable magic which complements his already delightful narrative. Even if either the film’s story or the images through which it is told were a failure, the other alone would make Le Roman de Renard an enthralling work.
The Grey Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood
From the Los Angeles Times:
Garri Bardin parodies films ranging from Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to the postwar Gene Kelly musicals in “Grey Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood” (Soviet Union), a freewheeling send-up of the classic fairy tale. The film suffers from some technical problems and, at 22 minutes, is bit too long. But some memorable sequences, including the Wolf belting out a re-written version of “Mack the Knife” a la Sammy Davis Jr., infuse “Grey Wolf” with a rambunctious energy that’s hard to resist.
From J. Hoberman:
Suspiria, which is being revived around town this week and the next in all of its wide-screen, Technicolor splendor, is a movie that makes sense only to the eye (and even then . . .). A naïve young American student named Suzy (the preternaturally wide-eyed Jessica Harper) arrives in dankest Germany to—what else?—study ballet. Stepping out of the airport, she’s greeted with a sudden gust of wind and then torrential rain; arriving at the doorstep of the Dance Academy Freiburg, she’s nearly knocked over by a hysterical student who is shortly to be dispatched in a bit of horrific, stick-and-stab Grand Guignol set to a jangling, cackling, ear-splitting score by a band called Goblin.
Decades later, the film remains Tim Burton’s finest work as a director. His visual style has always been inventive, imaginative, quirky, and entertaining, but more often than not you rely on the high points to carry you past the awkward moments; his films tend to be great collections of bits and pieces rather than organic wholes. Yet Edward Scissorhands really does work as a complete film, mixing a fairy tale sensibility with a satiric view of life in the suburbs and crystallizing for the first time the essential themes underlying Burton’s work.
From the Los Angeles Times:
The Mexican-born writer-director Guillermo del Toro is the most accomplished fantasist in contemporary cinema, a master creator of images, atmosphere and mood who uses his visionary’s gifts to do what others cannot: make imaginary worlds seem more real than reality itself. With “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Del Toro has made his most accomplished film to date, a dark and disturbing fairy tale for adults that’s been thought out to the nth degree and resonates with the irresistible inevitability of a timeless myth. This is a film that’s set in two parallel worlds, the cold, brutal one of Spain in 1944, just after the triumph of Francisco Franco’s fascism, and an equally disturbing alternative universe that a serious 10-year-old girl named Ofelia stumbles upon behind an old mill.
Kirikou and the Sorceress
From the New York Times:
Ocelot’s style of illustration often uses a regal rigidity. His characters are frequently captured in profile, rendered as if they were pictograms created by the artist Romare Bearden. It’s a full-scale delivery of animation with its own cultural imperative.
My Neighbor Totoro
From the A.V. Club:
There are magical creatures in My Neighbor Totoro: the Catbus, a 12-legged conveyance with headlight eyes; the soot sprites, tiny animate dust balls who cluster in the dimly lit corners of the family’s house; and Totoro himself. But the world is magic, too, in the way it might be to children who have never seen the towering beauty of a camphor tree before. Acorns sparkle like diamonds in the dirt; branches part to reveal hidden forest paths, then hide all trace of them.
Toys in the Attic
From the New York Times:
The strange, often beautiful beings in the animated feature “Toys in the Attic” exist in a faraway land located somewhere between Czech surrealism and Pixar communitarianism. A simple story intricately told, it centers on a small familial group — a doll named Buttercup, a teddy bear, a marionette and a blob — whose happy life is threatened by a bust of a bald man that looks as if it once sat on a pedestal in Communist Party headquarters. The bust is attended to by a motley assortment of minions, including what looks like a termite with a human head, and a severed arm wearing a black leather glove, which suggests that the director Jiri Barta is a Stanley Kubrick fan.
Panda and the Magic Serpent
From The Spinning Image:
Panda and the Magic Serpent was the title bestowed on the 1961 American release of this landmark Toei animation, originally known as Hakujaden. For many years wrongly referred to as Japan’s first animated feature film, possibly to downplay the true recipient of that honour: the fascistic wartime propaganda cartoon Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (1945), Hakujaden was nevertheless the anime that truly sparked its industry to life. Aside from being the first anime made in colour, the film won honours at the Venice Children’s Film Festival, launched animators Gisaburo Sugii and Taku Sugiyama on their way to significant directing careers, established talented character designer and children’s illustrator Yasuji Mori as the most influential artist of anime’s golden age and left a lasting impression on a young man named Hayao Miyazaki.
From Senses of Cinema:
Based on the Czech folktale Otesánek by Karel Jaromír Erben, and drawing considerably from David Lynch’s The Grandmother (1970) and Eraserhead (1977), (7) Little Otik frames these superabundant desires and appetites through a surfeit of ritualised meals and acts of ingestion in which babies themselves become both relentless consumers and objects of consumption. This perpetual confusion or interchange between the consumer and the consumed, and between a series of otherwise oppositional or divergent states between subject and object, interior and exterior, food and the eater, food and waste, food and the body itself, animated and inert matter, infants and monsters, and even ingestion and pregnancy engenders a constant blurring of boundaries. This ambivalence is accentuated further by Švankmajer’s infusion of the film with a darkly satirical, grotesque kind of gallows humour which frequently melds the horrific with the hilarious.
Henjel gwa Geuretel
“Hansel & Gretel” puts the “grim” in Grimm while placing South Korean director Yim Phil-sung on the shortlist of “Pan’s Labyrinth” emulators to trust. Pic’s mix of horror, humor and surreality doesn’t bother being faithful to the titular fairy tale, though its nerve-jangling narrative of three kids left in a weird old house without proper guidance has dark magic to spare. Flesh-ripping telekinesis, a blue-eyed Santa, an evil deacon, a freaky forest of moving trees and a Danny Elfman-esque string-and-choir score are just a few elements that make Yim’s film translatable worldwide.
From Roger Ebert:
Tarsem’s “The Fall” is a mad folly, an extravagant visual orgy, a free-fall from reality into uncharted realms. Surely it is one of the wildest indulgences a director has ever granted himself. Tarsem, for two decades a leading director of music videos and TV commercials, spent millions of his own money to finance “The Fall,” filmed it for four years in 28 countries and has made a movie that you might want to see for no other reason than because it exists. There will never be another like it.
The Ashlad and His Good Helpers
From Film Affinity:
After nothing came of the movie entitled Once Upon a Time, Ivo Caprino decided to divide the manuscript up into a series of movie shorts. The first fairytale movie was Ash Lad and the Good Helpers. As ever, it was Ivo’s mother, Ingeborg Gude Folkestad, who modelled the figures. The movie had its premiere in Easter 1961 at the Saga cinema in Oslo as part of a programme of shorts. The movie received rave reviews in the press. Aftenposten call it a one hundred per cent success, while Dagbladet referred to it as Caprino at his peak. The movie went on to enchant generations of children and adults with its charming characters, and the “ship that could sail as well on land as on water — and through the air too.”
Puss in Boots (1922)
From the Animation Empire:
Walt Disney was barely 21 years old and still working out of Kansas City when he and his earliest cohorts in animation produced this cartoon. PUSS IN BOOTS is a slangy update of the old fairy tale, complete with jazzy topical references to flappers, radio, and Rudolph Valentino. (Rudy is parodied in a brief burlesque of his bullfighting saga BLOOD AND SAND, a movie-within-the-movie entitled “Throwing the Bull.”) The characters in this silent film converse in dialog balloons, as they would in a comic strip; similarly, when they’re startled, their hats dance in the air, or little lines fly out of their heads — it’s like the Sunday funnies come to life.
The Snow Queen
“The Snow Queen” [looks at] Andersen’s tale through the theatrical work of [Evgeniy Shvarts’ Yevgheny] Schwartz. This [version explores] the fantastic world around little Gerda. She becomes the devoted heroine, the paragon of a feminist moving force.
The City of Lost Children
The French fantasy adventure “The City of Lost Children” is a dark phantasmagoria so visually amazing and provocative — yet dense and confusing — that viewers may need to see it more than once to take it all in. Or to figure out exactly what it’s all about. . . . The film seems to say that if you look a fairy tale in the eye, you’re actually looking at a jungle of mixed-up mythology, religion, dreams and mind control. Even innocence isn’t as innocent it seems.
From the Austin Chronicle:
A through-the-looking-glass, arthouse action minimasterpiece, Hanna couldn’t be a more surprising departure for Atonement director Wright had it been titled Pride & Extreme Prejudice. Zombies aren’t apparent in this grim fairy tale but there are plenty of walking dead men (and women) as Ronan, playing the eponymous teenage assassin, is unleashed by her rogue CIA-operative father (Bana) on his former handler, the deadly ice queen Marissa (Blanchett). Shot on location in Morocco, Finland, and Germany, Hanna has a refreshingly Euro-sleaze vibe. It’s the polar opposite of Michael Bay’s big-budget, red-white-and-blue explodathons – and all the more entertaining for being so. Regional accents abound and even the Australian-born Bana feels like a cipher from another planet during the course of Hanna’s twisty and twisted narrative odyssey.
From critic Keith Phipps:
Restraint has never been one of director Ridley Scott’s trademarks, and while his willingness to shoot even the most mundane scene as if recreating a medieval Annunciation often serves him well, the same instinct lends a buggy quality to the 1985 film Legend. A fairy tale for the post-Jungian era, Legend pits absolute Evil (in the form of a behorned Tim Curry) against absolute Good (in the form of fairies and sprites led by Tom Cruise) in a battle for the soul of the land. It all hinges on a pair of unicorns, one of which is made vulnerable by the touch of a beautiful but foolish princess (Mia Sara), which enables Curry to claim its horn.
From writer Zev Toledano:
An underrated sleeper of a surreal fantasy and coming-of-age story by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. Although produced by the Jim Henson Company and often compared to Labyrinth and Alice in Wonderland, this is somewhat darker and uses masses of Dali-esque CGI imagery. . . . Very dense with metaphors and psychological layers, and the effects feel somewhat overdone at first but are magical once you get used to them. A quiet masterpiece that grows on you extremely well in your subconscious and imagination.
From Rolling Stone:
Director Tim Burton finally hooks the one that got away: a script that challenges and deepens his visionary talent. Big Fish, skillfully adapted by John August (Go) from the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace, brims with storytelling sorcery, and Burton makes it glitter. . . . The tension inherent in this fable of a father with his head in the clouds and a son with his feet on the ground brings out a bracing maturity in Burton and gives the film its haunting gravity. As the son learns to talk to his father on the father’s terms and still see him clearly, Big Fish takes on the transformative power of art.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
From Film School Rejects:
At face value, it’s a difficult film to fully explain. A society that lives off the grid from the mainland of a country ignores the warnings that their lives are in danger should the nearby levee break. They live in ignorant bliss, reveling in their lives and calling their home “The Bathtub” in a light-hearted mocking of the fact that a wall of water could come crashing down and destroy them all. At the heart of the movie lies Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl who lives near her father in a separate dwelling that allows her to live a wild, free existence with the other residents of the Bathtub. When she needs solace, she hides in a cardboard box in her stilt-supported home and draws pictures that will “Tell the world that there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.” But despite their best efforts, the outside world does intrude on their existence.
From J. Hoberman:
A near-irresistible exercise in bravura absurdity, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan deserves to become a minor classic of heterosexual camp—at the very least, it’s the most risible and riotous backstage movie since Showgirls. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake has had a spooky quality at least since Tod Browning appropriated a few bars of it to introduce his 1930 Dracula; Aronofsky takes that creep factor all the way to the moon. Not body but ballet horror, Black Swan is a Red Shoes/Repulsion/Carrie mash-up, slathered with Dario Argento cheese. At the same time, the movie is recognizably Aronofskyian in its strenuous, sensationalizing goofiness. This epic actualization myth is a distaff version of The Wrestler, equally saturated in gore-soaked, self-mutilating histrionics.
From Eye for Film:
When 32-year-old photographer Jeff (Patrick Wilson) meets eager 14-year-old Hayley (Ellen Page) in a cyber cafe, events quickly escalate, apparently beyond the girl’s control. Soon, they’re back at his place, cocktails are being consumed and Hayley is stripping off for a photoshoot. But Jeff is not the only one with an ulterior motive. Unexpectedly passing out, he awakens to find himself tied to a chair. Hayley is looking for information about a girl who disappeared from the same location and she’s prepared to go to considerable lengths to get it.
Return to Oz
From critic Nathan Rabin:
So one of the many, many disconcerting elements of 1985’s Return To Oz is that its Dorothy is so transparently played by a real-live little girl, an otherworldly, preternaturally precocious little woman but an eminently traumatizable young person all the same. Oh Lordy is there a lot to be traumatized by in Return To Oz. Return To Oz has a reputation for being exceedingly dark but I still found its uncompromising creepiness bracing. . . . Like The Wiz, it captures the horror and creepiness of Oz creator L. Frank Baum’s world but shortchanges the magic and wonder: Murch’s Oz is not a nice place to visit nor would anyone want to live there. Then again, Murch’s horrifying Oz mirrors how many children see the world: as a frightening, dangerous, even Kafkaesque place lorded over by glowering authority figures ruled by sinister motives and a cryptic, unfathomable code of conduct and ethics.
From the New York Times:
The puppets in Labyrinth, inventively created from the drawings of the conceptual designer Brian Froud, are a long way from Jim Henson’s original Muppets, which used the traditional puppet box. Now they are complicated, highly technical creatures, each requiring about five people to operate, with many of the movements done by remote control. But one of Mr. Henson’s special gifts is producing puppets that are wonderfully human, eccentric and individualistic. As a result his new creations are not cold, automated electronic marvels, but fantastic humanoid creatures inhabiting a newly created world who mirror our own foibles, and so can move us and make us laugh.
Idiots and Angels
From writer Amber Wilkinson:
Eschewing the need for narration, the story is presented in purely visual terms, but since the concept — a man who finds himself doing good despite his baser instincts — is a simple one it requires little explanation. As the central protagonist goes about his daily mooching – clobbering the local songbird with his alarm clock, lusting after the pub barmaid and trafficking guns – [award-winning animator Bill] Plympton fleshes out the fella’s follies. But he is not the only one with a negative agenda. Soon after he sprouts wings, other people show signs of wanting to get in on the action – from a barman on a terror spree to make his place the only game in town to the devious doctor who wants some wings of his own.
The Scarlet Flower
Lev Atamanov’s “The Scarlet Flower,” aka “The Little Scarlet Flower” or “The Crimson Flower” (original title: “Alenkiy tsvetochek”), is a beautiful Soviet classic from 1952 based on Sergey Aksakov’s Russian alteration, originally published in 1858. It’s a great example of Socialist realist animation of the time and place, particularly for its employment of the “Eclair” style of tracing live-action frames (a form of what we call rotoscoping).
Wings of Desire
From Roger Ebert:
You’re seduced into the spell of this movie, made in 1987 by [director Wim] Wenders, who collaborated on the screenplay with the German playwright Peter Handke. It moves slowly, but you don’t grow impatient, because there is no plot to speak of, and so you don’t fret that it should move to its next predictable stage. It is about being, not doing. And then it falls into the world of doing, when the angel Damiel decides that he must become human.
From DVD Talk:
It’s not easy to write about films like Terry Gilliam’s Tideland (2005); not because it’s difficult to follow, but very difficult to process. This off-center drama is rooted in darkness, childhood innocence and Alice in Wonderland, transporting viewers to a macabre environment peppered with peculiar characters. It’s far removed from Gilliam’s slightly more mainstream efforts like 12 Monkeys and The Fisher King, though fans of the director’s work will notice many of his dynamic and arresting visual flourishes on display. . . . It’s true that portions of Tideland will make even the most open-minded viewers squirm, yet it’s not always as jarring as it sounds through simple description. Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel of the same name, Gilliam has created a visual tour-de-force with a strange but steady pulse. The performances are uniformly excellent; anchored strongly by young Jodelle Ferland, the cast maintains Tideland’s dark illusion perfectly. Those looking for a linear story with a clear resolution should look elsewhere, but anyone willing to swim below the surface should appreciate Gilliam’s twisted tale.
The NeverEnding Story
Grim and unsettling, intense and unnerving, Wolfgang Petersen’s The NeverEnding Story isn’t the lighthearted fantasy or spirited adventure its whimsical coverart might suggest. Just ask any former ’80s tot to rattle off the most disturbing movie scenes they remember from their childhood. Chances are, The NeverEnding Story will come up more than once. A young warrior’s faithful steed drowns in a murky swamp mere minutes after he begins his quest; a pair of towering statues kill a man for simply walking between them; an endearing rock giant mourns the loss of his family and friends; a fanged creature prepares to devour a young boy before their world is consumed by nothingness; a desperate girl pleads with a hesitant savior as her palace collapses around her; an unlikely hero must come to terms with the death of his beloved mother, struggling to believe that the simple act of screaming into the wind could save an entire kingdom. Far from the rosy children’s fare modern film fans and sheltered kids of all ages have become accustomed to, it’s a weighty, worthwhile, terribly satisfying classic that deserves to be rediscovered, recommended, and treasured.