Thursday, March 19, 2009


For over 75 years, Disney has been the dominant force in animation in the United States. To the point where the animated film is generally understood to be made for children (or occasionally for the whole family) and they come off the assembly line tick, tick tick, with animal side kicks and princesses and musical soliloquies. Occasionally slightly more subversive animators such as Ralph Bakshi or Don Bluth manage to get a film off the ground at a different Movie Studio, but rare is the animated film that is not aimed at the younger set. Sure all the big studios turn out computer generated blockbusters with an army of digital artists, but rare is the feature length feature that is hand-crafted by a single individual. I can think of maybe half a dozen at most, and nearly all of them made in the past 15 years. They end up looking alien and fragile compared to the monster-sized blockbusters from Pixar and Dreamworks.

And that brings us to 2008's Sita Sings The Blues. Unusual does not even begin to encompass it.

Director Nina Paley has morphed a classic piece of Hindu mythology, The Ramayana, into a cunningly crafted and offbeat chick-flick. A chick-flick with blood, war, treachery and monkey warriors. It tells the story of Rama and his exile at his father's request (via a scheming step-mother, natch) and the troubles of living with his wife in exile. A kidnapping by a neighboring King complicates matters further by instigating a blood bath where nobody gets out unscathed.

The narrative alternates three parallel 'stories' to form the gist of the Hindu tale: A scratchy hand drawn autobiography of the director's crumbling long distance relationship as she futilely attempts to stick by her man despite his indifference; a water-cooler styled conversation between three Indian thirty-somethings chatting casually about the myths specific details with Monty Python 'moving cardboard' collages; and gorgeous musical numbers set to music of obscure 1930s jazz-pop vocalist Annette Hanshaw which are accompanied by graphics rendered in Macromedia flash animation. While all the threads are woven in a complicated yet effective manner (plugging some holes and tightening the scope of a piece of massive Indian mythology), it is Ms. Hanshaw's fantastic voice that becomes the take-away memory of the piece.

Sita is a one of a kind experience that has the inspiration to fuse together things that aren't obvious fits. Like chocolate and peanut-butter, clam and tomato juice, or cola and ice-cream, you'll walk away buzzing pleasantly with the combination.

Come out Thrusday, March 19th @ 8pm for cocktails and chat prior to an 8:30pm showtime. Sita runs a lean 81 minutes, so expect plenty of off-the-wall trailers in front of the show.


Blogger jerry said...

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