Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Movie Review: Blood Tea and Red String

The greatest video store I have ever known, Peterborough's Have You Seen, went out of business this month. I have no reason to live and I can't stop crying, but I cling to the memory of my last rental there. Christiane Cegavske's Blood Tea and Red String will always remind me of better times, before a gaping wound opened in Peterborough's cultural side.

If you don't like stop motion, stay the hell away. If you have a taste for it, Blood Tea and Red String is impossible to dislike. Christiane Cegavske would probably be glad to hear that, because it took her thirteen years from to go from idea to execution. For a move in production that long, it's remarkably cohesive - all the ideas I had thirteen years ago seem pretty stupid to me now. The end product looks like Jan Svankmajer animating a long-lost Alejandro Jodorowsky script. It even has the same kind of grainy, washed out colour that is Svankmajer's stamp. It doesn't have any animated meat, but it does have a cake filled with bugs. The Jodorowsky link comes through in waves of inscrutable symbolism and psychedelic mythology. That said, Cegavske definitely has her own thing going, a certain crafty, earthy, entirely handmade feeling that makes the proceedings feel a whole lot older than most releases from 2006. It also reminded me heavily of the stop-motion version of the Wind in the Willows, the difference being that the weirdness here seems intentional.

It has a plot. It has to do with a bunch of bat-eared crows with brown fur getting their idol back from a posse of white mice who stole it. Along the way they eat psychotropic passion fruit and face a spider with a human head (come to think of it, that's exactly the kind of stuff I was thinking about thirteen years ago). I'm not sure I understood a whole lot else, but I know I liked it. For a film as homemade and rustic looking as this one, I thought the angles and editing were sharp and creative and kept things ticking. I seem to be moving away from words, because like the Jim Woodring comics I wrote about a few months ago, this fairy tale is entirely wordless. It's got one helluva soundtrack to make up for it, though. Mark Growden's music, with its meandering, pastoral wooden flute melodies, sometimes verges on cheesy sixties folk but matches the scene perfectly and lends extra mystery. The music during the tea party dance made me excited and sick to my stomach, exactly what I look for in a soundtrack.

Cegavske says on her website that Blood Tea and Red String is part of a planned trilogy, and the next installment is almost ready to begin shooting. She's posted a tantalizing image or two already - if I have to wait until I'm in my forties to see I'm going to be disappointed. In the meantime, I heartily recommend the first film. I don't know where you're gonna find it... but enough lamenting, here's the trailer:

(P.S.I don't want to spoil the movie, but if you want to see that wonderful sickmaking scene with the dancing mice, it's available online here.)

1 comment:

  1. "music...made me excited and sick to my stomach, exactly what I look for in a soundtrack."

    That's great!

    Thanks for the recommendation. I like the wordless, too, and have even contemplated putting together a list of my favorite wordless or nearly wordless movies. Or sections of movies like 'Eraserhead' or the beginning of 'Up'...that would probably be a complete waste of my time though.

    What other stop motion stuff do you like? I assume you've seen the Quay bros. stuff. I have to be in the right mood for that funk.

    Sorry to hear about your video store. The times they are a-changing, and not necessarily for the better...