Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sita Sings the Blues: IFC Center, through January 5, 2010

The distribution of Nina Paley's 2008 animated feature Sita Sings the Blues has famously been obstructed by music publishing copyright protection. WNET-TV broadcast the film via a loophole in the copyright laws for public television: I'm not sure whether its screening at the IFC Center (through this Tuesday, January 5) is a defiance of copyright law, or a side-effect of the WNET alliance. The film is freely available on the Internet, but it's actually a terrific film to watch with an audience: many of us in the theater interacted vocally with the screen, but at different moments and in different ways, as befits the complexity of the work. And, for a film that Paley presumably hand-crafted, it's a surprisingly spectacular big-screen experience.

Not to mention a great movie. From the first few moments, where a campy but oddly droll and restrained tableau of Indian goddess with phonograph player suddenly explodes into the dynamic credit sequence, we are in the presence of an artistic personality with so many dimensions - purely formal play, cerebral comedy, parody of popular storytelling modes, balance among personal and cultural perspectives - that we reduce it by considering any one of them at a time. Paley's Rube Goldberg postmodern conception/contraption is ultimately a demonstration of her ability to integrate an uncontrollable variety of effects into a complex but whole sensibility.

2 comments:

Brian said...

I concur that this is a great audience film. I saw it at an outdoor screening in San Francisco; hundreds of folks sat in Dolores Park on a cold summer evening and enjoyed the music, the action, the comedy, the pathos...

Eric M said...

I really agree, Dan. I saw it at IFC last week and it very much caught me off guard. From that opening credit sequence (which is somewhat perfect), it really had me.