March 15, 2010

Alice in Wonderland on screen

 Everyone knows that things being the way they are supposed to be is the antithesis of Alice in Wonderland. So maybe I shouldn’t confess, but I will anyway, how amiss I felt when I saw the trailer for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice has breasts. It just wasn't right! "Breasts!"

I hope it’s clear that I am not doing anything so boring as to insist on total fidelity to the book. I love the Walt Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. I think the gardeners singing “We’re painting the roses red” are truly catchy and I am seduced by the caterpillar’s smoke rings turning into letters from the words he speaks, as I’m sure Lewis Carroll would have been.

And how can I not adore the movie which gave rise to one of the greatest theme park rides ever, and certainly the most cult: Disneyland's Mad Tea Party spinning tea cups, the scene, I am not ashamed to say, of some of the strongest emotions I've ever experienced.

My current favourite Alice movie is the one by the Czech genius surrealist animator and puppeteer (not sure where to put the commas there) Jan Svankmajer. The little girl who plays Alice is the only screen Alice I’ve ever seen who captures that fearless-child look you see in the famous photographs of Alice Liddell, saved from being too knowing for her years only, and just barely, by the piercing sweetness of the gaze.

Here's the trailer for "Neco z Alenky", as the movie is titled, which my profound knowledge of Czech, aka my library-withdrawn Czech dictionary, says means “Alice from nowhere”, or, alternatively, “Alice from anywhere”.

The British Film Institute National Archive recently restored the earliest film version of Alice in Wonderland and posted it on youtube. It was made in 1903, just 37 years after the book was published. Moving pictures had been around for less than a decade. I kept thinking, as Alice twirls around looking for the key, how there was something that reminded me of Degas's paintings of backstage ballerinas. And then I realized that this film and Degas are contemporaries! I find it amazing.

The director pressed his family's pet into service as the Cheshire Cat. I love how fat and disdainful he is as he floats photomontaged among the tree branches, more often than not looking pointedly in the wrong direction.

At Auckland Libraries you can get:

Disney's Alice on DVD

Tim Burton's Alice on DVD

Alice in Wonderland  in an audiobook of children's classics read by Alan Bennett

Alice in Wonderland, audiobook read by Miriam Margolyes

The Annotated Alice: the complete text of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the looking glass with notes and diagram of the chess game by mathematician Martin Gardner

and we hope to soon be able to put our hands on a DVD of Svankmajer's Alenky as well!

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 04:30


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