Sunday, December 27, 2009
Sita Sings the Blues
If you happen to be in New York, try and catch Nina Paley's 'Sita Sings The Blues' at the IFC Cinema on sixth avenue (It closes there December 31st but you can also download it at ninapaley.com). Sita is a movie so original, it's best I leave the review to A.O.Scott, of The New York Times:
"Animation is, at heart, the simplest form of cinema: a flutter of drawings fooling the eye into seeing motion. Nowadays, at least at feature length, the form tends to be a much bigger deal, with every year bringing can-you-top-this spectacles full of noisy, shiny figures and images.
“Sita Sings the Blues,” Nina Paley’s new film, which arrives in New York on Friday trailing festival love, is certainly ambitious and visually loaded. There are songs, bright colors and a story taken in part from one of the biggest, oldest epics in the world. But it is also modest, personal and, in spite of Ms. Paley’s use of digital vector graphic techniques, decidedly handmade. A Pixar or DreamWorks extravaganza typically concludes with a phone book’s worth of technical credits. Ms. Paley did everything in “Sita” — an amazingly eclectic, 82-minute tour de force — by herself.
Well, she didn’t sing the songs. Instead, she selected recordings from the early jazz singer Annette Hanshaw, whose voice, poised between heartbreak and soigné resignation, sets a mood of longing for this multilayered tale of love gone wrong. This music also provides an unlikely but seductive accompaniment to the main story, which comes from the Ramayana, an ancient and voluminous Indian epic.
Its hero is the blue-skinned Rama, avatar of the deity Vishnu, but Ms. Paley is more interested in Sita, his wife, whose devotion becomes both a romantic inspiration and a feminist cautionary tale. Her adventures are narrated by three shadow puppets who speak in the accents of modern Indian English and who quibble over details and interpretations.
Meanwhile, Sita, Rama and other characters from the Ramayana are rendered in various styles, including a “Betty Boop Goes Bollywood” look for the musical numbers and an illuminated-manuscript manner for the dramatic scenes.
All of this is entwined with the simpler, sadder, more drably drawn chronicle of a woman named Nina, whose longtime boyfriend, Dave, takes a job in India and eventually breaks her heart. This is a stripped-down, modernized variation on what happens to Sita, whose absolute love for Rama is repaid with suspicion, a humiliating trial by fire (to test her purity) and banishment. Hanshaw, crooning after inconstant or unkind lovers, completes the picture.
Not that “Sita Sings the Blues” will leave you wallowing in transhistorical, multicultural woe. On the contrary: Ms. Paley takes the pain in stride, and uses it as an occasion for whimsy and inventiveness. The movie’s playful spirit may represent a bit of defiant payback for whatever actual Dave may be out there; it shows that sometimes formal ingenuity can be the best revenge.
And the ingenuity of “Sita” — which evokes painting, collage, underground comic books, Mumbai musicals and “Yellow Submarine” (for starters) — is dazzling. Not busy, or overwhelming, or eye-popping. Just affecting, surprising and a lot of fun."
I wish you'd consider making the imaginary film club you mentioned once a regular part of your blog. This one is so unique. I loved every second of Sita and would've missed it without you - thank you.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!
Thanks E I'll check it out. I went to see Avatar and loved it. A little long perhaps but great if you want to escape for an hour or two.Post a Comment