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Archive for November 5th, 2011

by Joel Bocko

“Fixing a Hole” is a new series on Wonders in the Dark whose sole purpose is to review films that have not yet been covered on that site. The theme for Novembered is “Animated Animals.” Some spoilers are discussed below.

The Story of the Fox (1937/France/directed by Wladyslaw and Irene Starewicz)

stars the voices of Claude Dauphin, Romain Bouquet, Sylvain Itkine, Marcel Raine

written by Jean Nohain, Antoinette Nordmann, Roger Richebe, Irene Starewicz, Wladyslaw Starewicz from Johann Wolfgang Goethe • photographed by Wladyslaw Starewicz • designed by Wladyslaw Starewicz • music by Vincent Scotto • animated by Wladyslaw and Irene Starewicz

The Story: The royal lion seeks to punish Monsieur Renard (Mr. Fox) for eating his fellow creatures, yet the crafty animal tricks, manipulates, and fights his way out of every scrape.

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 “Animated Animals”: you’d be forgiven for picturing cute, wide-eyed little critters wandering through daisy fields and singing happy songs. Not so: this month there’s one cuddly creature (albeit too mute to sing), an amiable buffoon, a murderous yet still sympathetic monster, and then there’s Monsieur Renard (French for “fox”), the eponymous antihero of the brilliant stop-motion feature The Story of the Fox. Crafty, nasty, and carnivorous, Renard may have the least redeeming qualities of all the November beasts; unsurprisingly, he may also be the most human.

Watching as he assaults and semi-cannibalizes his fellow creatures, regarding us every now and then with an ambiguously conspiratorial twinkle in his eye, we titter nervously.  We recognize we aren’t really compatriots in crime but rather spectators in a show enacted only for the fox’s own benefit. Renard has the gifted performer’s contempt for the audience – and we’d probably be his next victim were we onscreen ourselves. Not only the fox but his master are winking at us with raw, mischievous relish.

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By Bob Clark

Cinematic adaptations are a funny thing, no matter what the medium, but especially when the source material happens to be comics. After all, both comics and cinema are primarily visual in nature, which is something you’d think would be to a work’s advantage when the time comes to translate it to a new kind of expression. Literature has only the vast expanse of abstract text to conjure up its characters and imagery, and theater has long proven a difficult, if rewarding, wellspring for the silver screen. What makes works created for the stage so challenging to adapt isn’t quite the things that make them stand apart from cinema– the single, static locations, the necessity for literally theatrical exaggerations in the performances or the over-reliance on dialogue to move plots ahead– but instead, the things they hold in common. Both are mediums that, for the most part, employ scripts and actors corralled by directors to deliver a narrative experience, and it’s those attributes they share which make the translation from one medium to the next somewhat awkward, at times, because when anything gets carried over from stage to screen, it’s all too easy to get carried away and bring it all into the equation, or cut back too much and lose out. Should one worry about creating an overly theatrical cinematic experience, or instead about losing part of that essential character from the stage?

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