Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland (1966)

It's a wonderfully silvery film, as if it were reflected in a polished tea service. It get some things just right - the tone of a brittle society held together with threadbare ceremonies and oblivious homilies. It misses Alice's passionate curiosity, she seems jaded rather than frustrated.

The standout performance is Peter Cook's Mad Hatter. He plays the part with an intense, desperate jollity, as if his ceasing to smile would mean the end of everything. The business of the hatter's quarrel with Time therefore takes on a sort of existential terror. Other luminaries of the British stage and screen are on hand, including Leo McKern as the Duchess.

The film is in many ways a failure, it has a static quality, and yet it's much more interesting than a lot of successful films. Eva has just looked at this link on youtube.

15 comments:

jess said...

Your last sentence has me thinking of the reasons I love most of MST3K's movies... They're technically 'bad' but there's a simple, low-ball quality to them that make them classics. Have you ever seen Strawberry Blonde?

ArtSparker said...

Jess- I have seen a few of them, I had friends who were REALLY into them. This was not technically bad, it was quite bewautiful, it just seemed to veer too much away from the lightness of the original - that is, Carroll laughed rather than cried over what he was writing about.

Totalfeckineejit said...

I like the teeny tiny egg and eggcup. It reminds me of the man in a boarding house who on being given a tiny amount of honey with his breakfast bread " My word Mrs Kelly, I didn't know you kept a bee"

Cláudia said...

TFE,

`I have tasted eggs, certainly,' said Alice, who was a very truthful child; `but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know.'

ArtSparker said...

TFE- I am not widely known for my grasp of perspective.

Eva said...

Saw the scene on YouTube and love it! What an atmosphere in this movie. Something between Jean Paul Sartre and Monty Python. -- Saw the trailor of the new movie with Johnny Depp, and the music gave me an instant headache. It is all so overdone! I hated the stuff, although I adore Depp. This is lightyears away from the silent horror of the 1966 movie. I'd like to see the old version in full length!

ArtSparker said...

Eva- Of course I watched the DVD commentary, Jonathan Miller was trying to include both the beauty and the boredom of long summer days in childhood. I should go put in a link to youtube right now.

Titus said...

Of course, this was the first film version I ever saw, so it remains the best for me, though Alice herself was a little disappointing, in hindsight. Wonderland itself was superb though, I thought.

Beautiful drawing.

AJ "Rohzi" Ellington said...

Oh my goodness... that youtube clip was one of the most unbearable things to watch. That was the poorest portrayal of Alice I've ever seen. It was painful to watch. It was almost as though she would rather have been anywhere but where she was. :-(

I've never seen the 1966 version. And after watching that small clip, I never intend to.

I love the book though. And the cartoon film version. : - )

Needle Woven Studio said...

I'd not known about this version of Alice - I enjoyed the YouTube offering - Alice seemed a bit crabby - and you are right about the man who played the Mad Hatter and his "desperate jollity" - wonderful actor. Thank you for the link ... your drawing is marvelous.

femminismo said...

Just saw the fashion design Oscar presentation and in the fashion drawings on one side of the screen (on the other side a movie clip) I thought the drawings of costumes looked ever so much like your drawings - some with a little more color; not all black and white. You do have great skill as an illustrator.

ArtSparker said...

Thanks, guys. I am hoping to get back to more drawing soon.

Celeste Bergin said...

love her little crossed hands...and the tea pot and egg cup escpecially. It is always fun to take in all the cool details in your drawings.

Kaetlyn Wilcox said...

What a perfect analysis. The atmosphere IS quite wonderful and "silvery," as you say. And Alice DOES appear terribly jaded. She reminds me of one of my adult ed. drawing students who is perpetually rolling his eyes and sighing disgustedly at nothing and everything....

Bee said...

In last week's Guardian, A.S. Byatt did a long article about Alice in Wonderland . . . and she bemoaned the fact that no one ever gets Alice right. I was thinking about sending the article to you (and still will, if you want it), but it meandered all over children's literature and really didn't talk much about AIW.

So have decided to see Burton's AIW yet? I took the kids last weekend. They both loved it; mixed reviews from me. Alice has several interesting turns, though -- including Joan of Arc.