Form and Fairy Tale: the visual appeal of La Belle et la Bête

July 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

Christophe Gans’ extravagant French film adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” will be shown in select cities this September, and from the looks of the trailer, it’s right in line with the CGI live-action extravaganzas we’ve been treated to by Hollywood in the last handful of years.

Praised and awarded in Europe for its luscious production design, La Belle et la Bête is hardly the kind of film you could describe as “restrained.” But restraint isn’t really what the film industry has in mind for fairy tales lately; I’m immediately thinking of the bombastic giant-human battles in 2013’s Jack the Giant Slayer and Maleficent’s sparkly, fairy-populated Moors in 2014. It’s worth noting that La Belle et la Bête was also originally released in 2014, followed in 2015 by the much more understated (and more disturbing) Tale of Tales, directed by Matteo Garrone. (Warning: trailer below is NSFW) « Read the rest of this entry »

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Film Preview: Le Petit Prince

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Normally one to rail against major revisions/additions to film adaptations of classic literature, I am completely charmed by this trailer for the new French animated film version of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince, and its added narrative of this little girl and her friendship with her oddball neighbor. If you’ve read the book, then you know that the narrator, the pilot, is addressing an unseen listener, and it’s conceivable that that listener might well look like the studious little girl given life in this new film. And by adding this framework, it seems to me that the filmmakers have captured the wonder of reading this book, either for the first time as a child, or as an adult lost in the pleasures of nostalgia. The shift in animation style between the “real” world and the story of the Little Prince is so lovely, portraying the story-within-a-story as something delicate and other-worldly. I can’t wait to see this!

 

Searching for Rapunzel: An Adventure in Googling

January 31, 2014 § 3 Comments

So, last week I was preparing to post a new entry on A Grimm Project, and I needed an illustration for “Rapunzel.” I have my favorite illustrators from different time periods, from Heinrich Lefler to Arthur Rackham to Paul O. Zelinsky, but I wanted to see if I could find something new, or that I had forgotten about. I did a Google image search. But I forgot the cardinal rule of finding illustrations of fairy tales on the internet: include the word “illustration.” If you don’t, here’s what you get:

Google image search 1/19/14

Google image search 1/19/14
Click to enlarge

« Read the rest of this entry »

On Hansel and Gretel & Good (Very)Old-Fashioned Humor

January 2, 2013 § 8 Comments

Ok, so have you guys seen this?

Hilarious.

I’m not even mad, I mean, how could I be? It’s hysterical. I can see how some loyal readers might expect me to get all up in some steampunky arms about the ridiculous-looking romp that will surely be Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you, because I’m too busy cracking up.

It looks like fun. I’m gonna see it. At least, I’ll Netflix it when it turns up on Instant, and take a shot every time a witch dies in an unexpected and hilarious manner.

Why?

Because there are times for snobbery and contextual hand-wringing, and there are times to just gather around the fire and laugh and laugh and laugh when someone tells a story about a witch getting her just gingerbread desserts.

There’s a misconception pretty widely spread about fairy tales which concerns their morality. When I was in graduate school and teaching freshman writing courses, I used fairy tales—namely, “Little Red Riding Hood”—as tools for students to learn about critical thinking and rhetorical narrative in a low-stakes setting. As we looked at the many iterations of LRRH, the students could see how some fairy tale tellers would manipulate the tale to serve their own purposes. Those purposes ranged from 17th century European court morality to 20th century feminist narrative-reclaiming. But the first thing I had to do for those students, before we dove into the tale, was erase their incredibly pervasive notion that fairy tales are inherently morality stories. Many of them showed me in their very first blog post that they believed that all fairy tales, regardless of edition, historical context, or even Disney film status, were intended to teach a lesson.

Not so. « Read the rest of this entry »

The “Jewish Exorcist Film” That’s Not Currently in Theaters: The Dybbuk, 1937

September 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

If you’re still in the mood for fuzzy cuddlies after my last post on Margaret Wise Brown’s “The Color Kittens,” then this post isn’t exactly for you. I’m taking a turn back to folklore land, and celebrating the release of Sam Raimi’s The Possession—which is being commonly referred to as “The Jewish Exorcist” by sharing with you what was actually the first “Jewish Exorcist” film—and before that, what you might call the definitive “Jewish Exorcist” play. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before the Singing Mice

March 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

Cinderella in the Silent Film Era

I finally watched Hugo last night. It was as fabulous as I had hoped, even in the slightly forced but inevitable orphan-child-finds-a-family scenes. And of course, I could see what the reviewers out there had been talking about–that Scorsese had essentially crafted a love letter to the early days of film, when imagination could be sparked by a clever film cut, or an elaborate tableau. Being familiar with the book, I had been aware that the biography of George Melies, the pioneer of early film, featured largely in the film, and I was pleased to find that most of the film’s claims about Melies are actually true. He did, in fact, give up making films, and did, after all, work in near poverty in a toy shop in the Montparnasse station before being “re-discovered” by several researchers and journalists interested in his work. While no biographies I can find make any mention of a scrappy orphan boy being the key to Melies’s reemergence into public life, and Melies actually lived with his granddaughter (Madeline), and not a goddaughter (the fictitious Isabelle), the essence of Melies’s withdrawal from and eventual return to the world of filmaking in the early 20th Century remains as magical as a fairy tale, and as real as one could hope.

Also, it got me thinking.

What with the spate of fairy tale offerings due out from the major film houses this year, I’ve been hearing–or rather, reading, thanks to WordPress’s genius “terms people have used to find your site” tool–one question repeated often:

Why the new obsession with fairy tale films?

Now, why anyone would type that in as a search an expect a “well, Davey, here’s what you need to know” answer to pop up immediately is beyond me, but with that said…

Well, Davey (or whatever your name is), here’s what you need to know: « Read the rest of this entry »

“‘The Little Mermaid’ Molded My Idea of Love,” and Other Terrifying Inanities

February 22, 2012 § 4 Comments

This post has been in the making for two months. At first, I didn’t write it because it seemed petty—but the thing that started this long indecision, the errant article published online by someone who clearly just doesn’t know any better, has stuck with me for weeks, and I’ve figured out, finally, why.

Here’s what started it: this article, written by no one I’ve ever heard of on a site I am not familiar with: http://globalgrind.com/node/821245

Looks to be a pretty cheaply written entertainment site, somehow affiliated with TMZ and the like. The article in question is written by someone named Lindsey P, who is very upset about Julia Leigh’s new film, Sleeping Beauty, which casts Emily Browning as a sex worker who enters a drug-induced sleep every night, only to have men do what they will with her after she’s passed out. Nobody is trying to pass this off as rated G material, but Lindsey P is up in arms nonetheless:

I think it’s pretty ridiculous that there are directors out there who want to add these dark and gloomy tones to classic happy Disney movies. Do they not realize that there will be little girls and maybe even boys out there who want to see their favorite princess have the overly joyful happy ending with the handsome prince on their arm? At this point, no childhood memory is safe!

Yikes.

Lindsey P’s argument is that filmmakers should at least re-name these “twisted and gloomy” films, so that poor, naïve children won’t get fooled thinking that they’re the “classic Disney princess movies” that we all KNOW are the originals. Those crazy filmmakers! What do they think they’re doing, using Disney stories this way? Oh woe, woe is Lindsey P.

And upon my first read, I just laughed it off. (Well, laughed it off and left a comment, because we all have our weaker moments, don’t we?) This is probably some high school student, trying to write a persuasive piece for the first time, and somebody showed her how to upload it to a site, I thought. Who cares?

But as I tried to go on about my life in the following weeks, the article kept popping into my head, aggravating and infuriating me. I found myself wanting to throttle Lindsey P, to give her a good talking to. Why? I kept asking myself. So someone wrote a badly written, conservative essay and it’s online. If that gets you every time, you’ll be dead of stress before you hit 30.

But it kept coming back, and each time I realized that I was thinking about this article, I’d get angrier and angrier. Finally I had to ask myself: what is it about this article in particular, this girl’s problem with fairy tales that has your goat held so firmly by the leg?

When I went back and read over the offending piece again, I found what had stuck in my craw, so to speak. Here’s the choice tidbit:

When I was a young girl, I looked towards fairy tales to mold my idea of love. They were what I wished for myself when it came to falling in love and learning about life… I wanted to be like Ariel, not only so I could swim and have cute fishes and a lobster as friends, but so I could meet a handsome young prince to sweep me off my feet. What girl wouldn’t want a love like that?

You guys.

She’s saying that The Little Mermaid taught her everything she wants to know about love and life.

There is no hope left for humanity. « Read the rest of this entry »

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