Mar. 3rd, 2010

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For Fantasy this week, leading up to this weekend's release of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, I look at nine of the most famous, skillful, or notorious movie adaptations of Lewis Carroll's Alice books.



Watching all nine adaptations in quick succession had two effects on me:

1. I realized that, even though I'm not the biggest fan of the books, it really is a story perfectly suited to film. Most books suffer in translation from paper to screen, but not Alice; since the books themselves are a breezy series of visual metaphors and hidden meanings, there's almost nothing about it that doesn't work in film, and it actually allows a filmmaker to use the story as a wholesale metaphor for something else entirely and still maintain the tone of childlike discovery. That doesn't mean it can't be disturbing - it absolutely can (I will never, ever watch Neco z Alenky again, ever*) - it just means that the story is more fluid than I would have thought for intentionally plotless nonsense that's had a hundred years of being a cultural checkpoint going against any sense of freshness, and I enjoyed a lot of these more than I expected to.

2. I was trippin' balls, dude. I recommend most of these be seen at a maximum rate of two a day, lest you suffer from a glut of wonderment and end up diving for the Euclid just to read about something that makes some sense.


I recommend the 1915 version above all; I'm pretty sure it's the best one yet made.

However, the best moment in any of them, for my money, is from 1998's shoestring-budget Alice Through The Looking Glass, in which Kate Beckinsale (back when her face moved) and Ian Holm (as the White Knight) sit together, and the White Knight tells her his tale. The tale is illustrated in silent-movie fashion (Ian Holm as Buster Keaton: SOLD), including fuzzy-audio interludes, and Ian Holm basically gives a five-minute masterclass in dramatic reading.

It's very quiet, and very weary, and very, very good. If you have a few minutes, it's highly recommended.

Tim Burton's Alice goes under my knife this weekend, and the review should appear early next week. After the clips I've seen, my feeling right now is: We'll see about THAT, Burton. I hope he proves me wrong.

* Seriously, this movie has been retroactively added to my list of "Oh, I Don't Think So" won't-review movies over at Con or Bust. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to find some other way to make me suffer, though - go bid!

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Genevieve Valentine

September 2010

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