8 out of 12 minutes survive of the earliest filmed adaptation of “,” restored (as well as possible) by the BFI.
DIRECTED BY: Claude Chabrol
FEATURING: Sylvia Kristel, Charles Vanel, Fernand Ledoux
PLOT: After leaving her husband, Alice Caroll’s travels leave her stranded during a storm; she ends up at a mysterious mansion populated by odd characters, discovering that she can’t leave.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: Your present author stumbled upon Alice or the Last Escapade on Tubi, and I could not shake the feeling that “366 Weird Movies should have this one already.” That’s because Alice or the Last Escapade brings to mind several movies already in our canon. First, the sparse “ ” elements give the story a thin fairy tale flavor. French director Chabrol (himself often described as “the French ”) dedicates the film to the memory of Fritz Lang. We have a classic ontological mystery in which a character is trapped by strange forces without explanation. A few reviews of this movie even compare it to ‘s The Exterminating Angel. I can see that, but more importantly, there is one specific movie on The List, a seminal cult classic, which I dare not mention lest I spoil the movie, because Alice or the Last Escapade has the exact same plot and ending.
COMMENTS: If you ask me, the best comparison for Alice is an hour-and-a-half long “Twilight Zone” episode. Alice Caroll (Sylvia Kristel) leaves her annoying bore of a husband to set out on the road. Driving at night, she finds herself in the classic Euro-Gothic plot: stranded at night with car trouble during a storm, forced to seek refuge at a strange mansion. The inhabitants of said mansion welcome Alice and insist she stay overnight, even offering to fix her car for free. But in the morning, Alice tries to leave, only to be confronted by reality-warping events that prevent her departure. There’s a “broken” clock which starts up at odd hours and seems to control other events in the house. The same view is visible out the front door and the back. She tries to trace her way around the property wall only to discover that the gate has vanished. When she does drive around, all roads lead back to the mansion. Meanwhile the mansion is populated by oddball characters who speak in riddles and have odd rules about conversation, such as not responding to any direct question.
The “Alice in Wonderland” elements are kept to a minimum. We have the protagonist’s name, of course; the checkered floor tiles in some rooms suggest a chessboard; a gentleman dressed all in white confronts Alice in the surrounding woods. Alice’s meals and tea are left prepared for her by an unseen entity, but aren’t specifically labeled “eat me” and “drink me.” The wake/dance party she encounters stands in for a “mad tea party.” Among elements definitely not drawn from Lewis Carroll, we get a single nude scene, when Alice gets lectured by a ghostly voice in the bath. (This blink-and-you-miss-it scene is there just to remind people that Sylvia Kristel used to play Emmanuelle.) Otherwise, there are no hints of sexuality to the proceedings; this movie seems designed as a vehicle for Kristel to demonstrate her advanced acting chops—which aren’t much to write home about, truth be told. But at least her character is no pushover. Alice quickly learns the arbitrary rules of her captivity, and even turns the mansion inhabitant’s own conversational rules back at them, as she schemes to figure out the situation and find loopholes.
Alice or the Last Escapade did not fare well at the box office, and is seen today as a one-off venture for director Chabrol, who had an extensive and otherwise successful career. Actress Kristel stated in interviews that she thought the movie would have fared better with more nudity. I disagree; the movie would have fared better if it took more chances and pulled out the weird stops. For being made in 1977, it feels like a much later movie made from parts of other popular weird cinema. As it stands, this is more of a slow-burn “comfort weird” movie, to be enjoyed in the good faith that it treads ground already familiar to those who have extensively explored our canon.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“In the incredibly varied oeuvre of director Claude Chabrol there are few films as bizarre as Alice ou la dernière fugue, a dark, hallucinatory fairy tale in which fantasy and reality become intertwined to chilling effect… a haunting excursion into an Escher-like dreamscape from which there is no possibility of escape.”–James Travers, FrenchFilms.org
DIRECTED BY: Terrisha Kearse
FEATURING: Farelle Walker, Jared Benjamin, Scott St. Patrick, Kiya Roberts, Jermaine Jercox, David Chattam, Gayla Johnson, Mia Sun
PLOT: Ahmed attends a dinner party with Corah, his fiancée, to meet his prospective in-laws. Did we mention that they live in Wonderland?
COMMENTS: “Down the rabbit-hole” is as apt a phrase to use with Small Talk—literally as well as figuratively—since the film is a very clever bounce off of Carroll’s “.” The original story has been adapted and interpreted as everything from social commentary to political allegory, but writer/actor Farelle Walker uses it as a pointed and even more surreal look at information overload, behavior defined by social media, and any “ism” (race, sex, class, etc.) that she can come up with—and that’s quite a lot.
It’s a chaotic package; quite a lot is thrown at the audience, and at “Alice,” in this instance represented by Ahmed Mogadam (Jared Benjamin) as the voice of reason. He (and we) are introduced to the Hamner Family, described in the opening statement as an “interesting family of strong opinions and disturbingly small-minded chatter.” There’s Corah (Farelle Walker), Ahmed’s fiancée, an African Goddess (we meet them as they’re listening to her podcast on her “Yanniverse”; she refers to Ahmed as a “Moor”) and a conspiracy believer (trying to avoid chemtrails as planes fly overhead). Her sister, Senna (Kiya Roberts) is “White” based, having ties to the “White Lives Matter” movement. Her husband, Edwardian ‘Eddie” Licenter (Scott St. Patrick) is a “White” rabbit (“Creole,” he insists). Brother Grant (Jermaine Jercox) is a sinister Army officer, describing himself as “the Black Man They can trust.” Poppa Hamner (David Chattam) is a pig who acts and talks as a stereotypical black patriarch, and matriarch Athyna Hamner (Gayla Johnson)—The Red Queen —is a pious Christian for White Jesus, who watches all via a portrait on the wall.
Amongst all of this is the Asian housekeeper, Soon Yook (Mia Sun), who gives condescension as good as she gets it; and the constantly streaming “Wonderland News” with the Mad Hatter, Dormouse and Rabbit as news anchors in the background. It’s a dense package that might seem, at first glance, a mad cluster… but it’s a film that one needs to pay close attention to, especially the wordplay. It’s a film for smart people. Some of the banter may go over a lot of heads, especially as far as some specific cultural aspects are concerned, but for those willing to go on the ride down the hole, they’ll have a wild time.
“I set out with the intention of creating a mirror image of what I saw happening in my Social Media feed, while simultaneously shining a light into the dark corners of assimilation. As each minority group gains wealth, independence, and power there is a collective cheer amongst us. There is also a collective responsibility, which requires us to understand just how intricately racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and hatred of ‘others’ was woven into the structure of society. If we take note of how these concepts are interlaced we will start to understand why these ‘isms’ have not only outlasted their creators, but also started to be reflected in numerous people of color and minority groups. Recognition of our responsibility to be better should not make us kowtow to those that would oppress us; you will not hear a rally from me to turn the other cheek. Whether we find ourselves in opposition with a different ethnicity, opposite sex, or even a different religion; we must utilize our hard fought gains towards a higher standard in our approach to dealing with those we oppose. For if we act, problem solve and sound like those who oppressed us, are we really any different? ” – Farelle Walker
You can watch the 45 minute feature for free at www.flyrenegadeproductions.com or embedded below.
I doubt that even Jesus Christ himself knows how many film treatments there have been of 1951 animated feature produced under the auspices of old man Walt himself. One would think the Disney folk would be happy with that, and leave well enough alone. Instead, they foisted ‘s 2010 version on us, which took a toilet plunger and sucked out virtually all of the novel’s inherent surrealism. It was a new nadir for both Burton and Disney. The Burton of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Batman Returns (1992), and Ed Wood (1994) might have been an ideal match for the material. But, as a wise old owl once said, “the world may never know.” The Burton of 2010 was well past his tether and far from being the dark visionary of his past. Indeed, his Alice was a painfully sanitized caricature, and it seemed Burton could sink no lower (until Dark Shadows, that is).s Alice sagas. Among the damned few that have been predominantly successful is the
The Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland was scripted by Disney writer Linda Woolverton, who is and always has been a hack. Her Beauty and the Beast (1991) was a saccharine parody of 1946 psychological fantasy. Astoundingly, Beast earned an Academy Award Best Picture nomination (one of the Academy’s most embarrassing moments, which is saying a lot). Even more cringe-inducing was her 1994 Lion King, with its maudlin “Circle of Life” song upchucked by Elton John (who seems hell bent on proving that Bernie Taupin deserves all the credit for their collaborations) and Tim Rice (who seems hell bent on proving that Howard Ashman deserves all the credit for their collaborations). Woolverton’s resume expanded with more Alka-Seltzer slugfests, such as Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas (1997), Belle’s Magical World (1998), Mulan (1998), Lion King 2 (1998) and Maleficent (2014). Even in her most critically successful films (i.e Mulan) her writing never rises above formula, and what some feel might have worked in the projects she was attached to should be credited more to the animation and direction. Woolverton’s Alice made her direct-to-video, second-rate sequels look less embarrassing by comparison.‘s staggeringly brilliant
It hardly took a clairvoyant to see Alice Through the Looking Glass was a preordained disaster. A production team of hacks had plagued the previous production and, wisely, Burton opted out of returning as director. Gving Burton his due, he had to have known the Continue reading EAKER VS. EAKER VS.THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (2016)
“I see it as a strange voyage to the limits of the medium, or maybe my own limits.”–Louis Malle on Black Moon
FEATURING: , Therese Giehse, Joe Dallesandro,
PLOT: A young woman is driving a car during a shooting war between the sexes. Escaping from a checkpoint where male soldiers are executing females, she finds refuge at an old farmhouse inhabited by a batty old woman, a mute brother and sister, a band of nude animal-herding children, and a unicorn. Initially rejected by the chateau’s residents, she gradually finds herself becoming part of this strange alternate society.
- Although Louis Malle had dabbled in light surrealism before with the whimsical Zazie dans le Metro (1960), there was nothing in the respected director’s then-recent oeuvre (mostly documentaries and historical pieces like 1974’s Vichy drama Lacombe, Lucien) to prepare his audience for the bizarreness of Black Moon. Sven Nykvist won a Caesar for his cinematography, but the film was mainly a commercial and critical failure, and quickly lapsed from circulation.
- Black Moon was a transitional work in Malle’s move from France to the USA. He shot the film in France, at his own estate near Cahors, but in the English language, with a British, American and Canadian actor in the cast. After this movie, the director went to America where he scored a series of critical successes with Pretty Baby, Atlantic City and My Dinner with Andre.
- Joyce Buñuel, Malle’s co-writer, was ‘s daughter-in-law.
- Therese Giehse, who plays the bedridden woman, died before the movie was released, and Black Moon is dedicated to her. Malle credited her with partly inspiring the idea for Black Moon by suggesting he make a movie without dialogue (although the eventual script did have dialogue, it is sparse and often nonsensical).
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Appropriately for a dream-movie, the indelible image is an imaginary one; it’s the transgressive event you see transpiring in your mind’s eye the minute after the film officially ends on a provocative freeze-frame.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Gender genocide; portly unicorn; resurrection by breast milk.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Black Moon concerns a young girl’s flight from an absurd world—where camo-clad men line up female prisoners of war and execute them, while the gas mask-wearing ladies returning the favor to their male captives—into a totally insane one. The movie is an unexpected assay of the irrational from nouvelle vague auteur Louis Malle, and although it’s congenitally uneven, it makes you wonder how wonderful it would have been if every master director had indulged himself by unleashing one unabashedly surreal film on the world.
Original trailer for Black Moon
COMMENTS: A frayed fairy tale set in no time or place in particular, Continue reading 209. BLACK MOON (1975)