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Jan Svankmajer's Alice [DVD]  [US Import] [NTSC]
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Jan Svankmajer, the Czech master of animation, has fulfilled a lifetime ambition in this personal interpretation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." Svankmajer's "Alice" remains true to the absurdity of Carroll's original, but bears the stamp of his own distinctive style and obsessions. Combining techniques of animation and live action, he gives to this classic tale of childhood fantasies a new and fascinating dimension.
This adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland mixes animation and live action to create a dreamlike world, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's simply a kid's film. Young Alice (Kristyna Kohoutová, spoken by Camilla Power) watches a stuffed and mounted rabbit come to life in her playroom and follows it through a magical drawer into a strange world that resembles a 19th-century toy store come to life, with a few specimens from a natural history museum thrown in. Czech animator Jan Svankmajer retains the familiar story elements but tweaks them with bizarre imagery brought to herky-jerky life with his spasmodic style of stop-motion animation. The caterpillar becomes a sock puppet with dentures, while other crazy creatures materialise as creepy skull-headed beings that bleed sawdust. Throughout the tale Svankmajer returns to punctuating close-ups of Alice's lips telling the story, just to remind us that this is a tale told. In the best surrealist tradition Svankmajer uses familiar objects in unfamiliar ways, giving a fantasy quality to the banal (and the not so banal) while tipping the dream logic to the edge of nightmare. While the imagery remains more unsettling than genuinely disturbing, younger children will certainly be happier with Disney's brightly coloured animated classic Alice in Wonderland. Older children and adults will better appreciate Svankmajer's sly visual wit and unusual animation style. --Sean Axmaker --This text refers to the Blu-ray edition.See all Product description
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As for this film not being suitable to children, I say - pish!
Disurbing images, etc etc - it's only wierd to *rational* grown-ups, who've had a lifetime of conditioning in what consitutes *normal* film-making.
As a child, I loved this film, thought it was crazy, beautiful and amazing - it didn't give me nightmares, or make me afraid of milk or meat, because I didn't know it should be scary, no one told me.....
I say buy it for yourself, buy it for your kids, buy it for your grandparents, buy it for people you meet in the street and abandon twee disney forever!!!
Long may your socks dig holes and your jam bring forth drawing pins!!!!
You won't find much of that charm in Jan Svankmajer's adaptation, "Alice." It's hard to believe that this film was actually aimed at children -- it's a mixture of live-action and stop-motion, populated by grotesque little skull-headed things, toothy socks, and stuffed animals that bleed sawdust. And it's brilliantly creepy. It's the stuff of nightmares, but it's every bit as surreal as Lewis Carroll's book.
Alice (Kristýna Kohoutová) is hanging around in her attic when she sees a stuffed rabbit detach itself from its base, dress itself, and vanish into a drawer in the middle of a field. She follows it down a strange dumbwaiter-like elevator... and finds herself in a surreal world where tube socks have eyes and teeth, rats cook rice on her head, potions turn her a doll, and strange skull-headed creatures attack her. And she hasn't even GOTTEN to the playing-card-land yet.
Like the original book, "Alice" is a pretty simple story -- it's all about a little girl's dreams of a "Wonderland" based on the items that are just lying around her attic. Skulls, socks, jars of goop, stuffed animals, dollhouses, and so on. As a result, Svankmajer's "Wonderland" is a cluttered, claustrophobic, grimy place that feels like it's been neglected.
He also ditches "typical" filmmaking, relying on a mixture of live-action (Alice) and stop-motion (everything else), which makes everything except our heroine look nightmarishly jerky and macabre. There are also some truly bizarre adaptations of Carroll's creatures, including a "caterpillar" made out of dentures and a sock, and a murderous stuffed rabbit with clacking teeth and soulless glass eyes.
Nobody says a word except Alice There is no music, and no sounds except the clicks, cracks, scrapes and clatters of the various creatures Alice encounters. It's bizarre and unsettling, which is what Svankmajer probably was going for.
Kohoutová is also the only actor in the entire movie, and there is nothing cutesy or twee about her performance. Her Alice sometimes does some stupid things, but she acts like a real little girl who just happened to wander into a strange, unpredictable world. It's even more impressive because Kohoutová hardly ever speaks onscreen, except for that creepy close-up of her mouth that happens every time Alice narrates something.
"Alice" keeps the bones of Lewis Carroll's story, but fleshes them out in something rich and strange. Weird, freaky and delightfully unsettling.
I have lived with this film all my life, and it's one of the few films that absolutely made my childhood. I loved it. Seeing a slab of meat squidge across the table and slither into a pot was not scary in the least back then, although looking at the film now I can understand why my nan always groaned when I said I wanted to watch it. I didn't think anything of the animal skulls or the fact that the white rabbit was stuffed. In fact we had a spoon exactly like the one the rabbit uses to eat his sawdust, and I remember using it whenever I ate porridge so I could pretend I was him.
This film is completely suitable for children. Remember that children have a far more open mind than any adult. In fact it's probably better for people to watch it as a child, because seeing it for the first time as a teenager makes you go "Uuurrrgh! No way!". I believe you can only fully appreciate it by loving it through your childhood.
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