Dir: Christiane Cegavske
Well, this was a delicious treat. Apparently 13 years in the making, Christiane Cegavske's Blood Tea and Red String
is an enchanting "fairytale for grown-ups", that could just as easily
be enjoyed by children. The lovingly handmade creatures and meticulous
stop-motion animation recalls such classics as The Wind in the Willows and Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas.
There is a very visceral, tactile sense to the film, and you quickly
become drawn in because of the realization that you are watching
something that someone has actually MADE, manually.
Each frame of film
is beautifully rendered. This is not a digital experience, or some
cold, detached exercise in life-like CGI - the viewer is very aware of
the obvious limitations of the puppets and the scenarios; but rather
than a hindrance, this is very much an endearing quality and creates a
very human warmth, even if we are watching fox-crows, devious, arrogant
mice, and a frog-wizard...
story goes like this - a group of aristocratic mice appears at the home
of the Creatures Who Dwell Under the Oak, who are talented craftsmen.
The mice commission the fox-crows (that is what they resemble, so I will
call them such) to create for them a beautiful doll. A deal is reached
and the doll is made, but the fox-crows become attached to the
doll-lady, and when the mice return to pick up their product, the
fox-crows return the mice's money and shoo them away, for they have no
other desire than to hold onto the doll, who by now has become somewhat
of an idol that the fox-crows seem to worship. Later that night, the
mice come and steal the doll-woman, and when the fox-crows awake the
next day, they set out on a Baggins-worthy quest to bring her back. Along the
way there are drunken woodland waltzes with a frog wizard, a bartering
black widow, and an epic, absurd card game in which the mice become
drunk on blood tea...
is a fascinating, hilarious, altogether gorgeous film that exudes the
love of its creator. There are also some very intriguing elements of
pagan ritual in the film, so it is not merely a surface experience.
Some may be turned off by the prospect of a 75 minute, dialogue-free
(but accompanied by a magical, creepy woodwind score) stop-motion film,
but they will be sorely mistaken if they choose to ignore this wonderful
little piece of ART.
The Cinema Epoch DVD
is fairly shy of features, but does have a few short, insightful looks
at early character sketches and set photography. Well worth seeking
out. And it's a film that Robyn and I both enjoyed, so that's saying something huge right there...