Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alice's Face: Part I

Around 2004 I went to see a film by Istvan Szabo at Cinematheque and he spoke at the screening. He said something about how certain faces - not necessarily beautiful faces - captivate viewers when they are shown on screen. I'm paraphrasing from memory, but I think he wondered whether certain faces contained a universal appeal or if they had something that allowed a great number of people to project an emotion (or an ideal or a familiarity, or one's self) onto them.

I was surfing around IMDb and I discovered that Tim Burton is directing a live-action /CG 3D Alice in Wonderland.

I had mixed reactions. While I like Tim Burton's work a lot, I'm not convinced that Alice in Wonderland has ever succeeded in its transposition to the screen. Perhaps I'm a purist and can't let go of the original Tenniel illustrations. (I do not even think that any of the contemporary illustrators for Alice have done a memorable job.) Possibly, because I read The Annotated Alice, in which Martin Gardner delves into the mathematics and Victorian references behind the text. Mostly, I believe, because the joy of the book is not in the story, but in the telling of it - in the wordplay. How do you get this in a film:

"However, this bottle was NOT marked 'poison,' so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off."

I'm sure that Burton's Mad Tea Party will be sublime - especially as Johnny Depp will play the Mad Hatter - but there's something a bit predictable about it all. Tenniel's illustrations will come to life... with STRIPES! While Alice's Adventures in Wonderland can be quite dark, I wonder if Burton's "darkness" is the right...tone?

I started out talking about faces, didn't I?

So here's...

1 comment:

Natalie said...

I think this movie has been in the works for a while now. (The proposal of it that is.) It's funny that it's going through now.

I happily followed you along your tangent. I think it's fair to say that if you expect "Alice" in Tim Burton's adaptation, you may be disappointed. But if you expect "Burton" in a Burton movie (that just happens to be called Alice) then maybe it will lend itself to some perspective.