Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blood Tea and Red String (2006)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

Sometimes a movie comes along that seems impossibly in alignment with my tastes and interests. Blood Tea and Red String is so up my alley that 366 Weird Movies emailed me to make sure I knew about it. And thank goodness he did! The combination of stop-motion animation, lady filmmaker, comparisons to Jan Svankmajer, and dark fantasy world made it a very easy sell. Christiane Cegavske wrote, directed, designed, and did pretty much everything except the music and sound effects in this beautifully-animated film over a period of 13 years. The story concerns a group of creatures who make an enchanting white-faced doll for some aristocratic mice, but love it so much they keep it for themselves. The mice steal it in the night and feed it blood tea, while the creatures send a search party to reclaim it. There is no comprehensible dialogue.

Dark, imaginative, weird, meticulous: Blood Tea and Red String is a cautious journey through one woman's heady dreamworld, rewarding viewers with moments of mystery, humor, and all-encompassing beauty. My favorite animated films are those infused with small details and intricate movements, and I wanted to drink down the visuals of this film like the thick tea of the title. The story is at times vague and at others jarring, laced with ambiguous symbolism and strange characters, but I became quickly engrossed in the action thanks to Cegavske's expressive narrative style and wonderfully nightmarish stylistic ideas. Her creations have a light air of menace but aren't outwardly scary or antagonistic, and indeed my favorite character is a whip-smart spider lady who captures creatures in her red web and then haggles for their release. Strong Female Character, hello!

It's certainly not for everyone, but Blood Tea is definitely for me. It's part of a planned trilogy and I'm very excited to see what Cegavske does next!

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: This is definitely in the tradition of Czech stop-motion master Jan Svankmajer, so I would pair it with his version of Alice in Wonderland. Alternatively, if you're looking for more cool female animation directors (there seems to be a dearth of them in mainstream animation filmmaking), I recommend Sita Sings the Blues or something from early animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger, who made a host of silhouette-animated films like The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Brenda Chapman, who's worked on projects for Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar, co-directed The Prince of Egypt and the upcoming Brave (which for some reason she was kicked out of? I never got the full story on that).

PS Christiane Cegavske is an awesome artist and crafter, she's got an etsy shop!

1 comment:

  1. Alex, glad you enjoyed it! It's always a pleasure to share something fine and peculiar with one of the few others in this world who can also appreciate it.

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