With the sensitivity of a CHAINSAW!
Such is still the case with the ongoing Red Princess Blues Saga. The first taste of Red Princess Blues was sampled in the summer of 2007 with a new short film called Cyn, good in and of itself, but hinting, strongly, at a larger mythos. That larger mythos has just expanded with the next teasing step in this journey with the prequel: Red Princess Blues Animated: The Book of Violence, written by Ferrari and directed by Dan Cregan.
What The Book of Violence is may not be what the viewer will expect. While avoiding spoilers, I can say that again one of Ferrari's works has left me wanting much more. However, the reason for this is that The Book of Violence really amounts to more of an animated trailer for the upcoming release of the live action feature Red Princess Blues. In that respect it more than does its job as one would be hard pressed to find a viewer not yet ready for more of this story after The Book of Violence's seven minute run time has elapsed.
This is due, in large part, to the story that Ferrari has laid before us (or, has started to). This is also due, in no small part, to the beautiful narrating voice of Paula GarcÚs (also credited as an Executive Producer). Garces brings us up to speed on this story from the point of view of Princess herself. Princess is a young girl, suggested to be an orphan, who is sent away from home after engaging in some vigilante-style justice against a local, ill-mannered boy. She soon finds herself in the care of a bookstore owner named Nino (Larry Robinson) an old associate of Princess' now-absent father. As she helps Nino with the store to earn her keep, she begins to find a series of books, the content of which is, to say the least, not what she expects. It is through these that she and Nino start to better understand the legacy of Princess' father and the things he began to teach her. Things that Nino might become her new mentor on.
The dissatisfying aspect of The Book of Violence is that right when the film really becomes engrossing, the closing credits roll. With just this information most movies might have kicked into the opening credits around this time. This is one reason that The Book of Violence isn't exactly a stand-alone project. In fact, if not for the promise of this upcoming feature, The Book of Violence might have been a let down.
However, with the next chapters on the way, The Book of Violence doesn't disappoint. Again, this film feels much like a preview for a longer work which more than puts the pressure on Ferrari and company to deliver a Red Princess Blues feature that will live up to the potential so far set out in Cyn and The Book of Violence.
The bar is set high, though, because Red Princess Blues Animated: The Book of Violence is a beautiful short! Every frame in the seven minute movie is an absolutely stunning digital painting packed with dark colors that go far beyond reds and blues. There isn't a shot in the film that couldn't bring a tear to the eye. However, the word "Animated" is one I would use lightly here. The Book of Violence isn't an Anime extravaganza with bouncing characters and fast moves. In fact, in spite of its title, there is really no "violence" on screen.
The Book of Violence comes off more like a detailed slide show of seriously impactful images. The primarily static characters interact in a world of mobile frames in which rain and steam move in real time while humans remain frozen in time. Does this work? If you know what you're getting into, yes. One might come into a film of this nature expecting Final Fantasy. Alex Ferrari isn't your standard action-forsaking-plot writer by any means. More than Final Fantasy, The Book of Violence resembles the thrilling animated sequences in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and the touching illustrated interludes of Behind Forgotten Eyes (which makes sense, seeing as how director Dan Cregan served as the Digital Effects Artist for Behind Forgotten Eyes). In these respects, the surreal slideshow of The Book of Violence comes off not as "poorly animated", but as dreamlike and thoughtful.
Looking at this another way, I couldn't help but think of the "MTV Oddities" version of The Maxx, which employed similar techniques. Princess' casual relationship with real-time reminded me greatly of some of the movements and frames within The Maxx, in which the wind might blow a character's clothes at top speeds, though the characters themselves would remain perfectly still, even while talking. There is no "lip flap" Synching in Red Princess Blues Animated: The Book of Violence. Characters' mouths are either off screen when dialogue is spoken or are cast in shadow. Why isn't this a detracting factor for this film? Like The Maxx, The Book of Violence feels like a comic book brought partially to life for the screen. Each change in scene is a turn of the page, each movement a new frame. After all, the name of the film is The BOOK of Violence. Though the title has more than one meaning to be sure, this short is more "read" than watched.
The verbal story is told to us almost entirely through the voice of Paula GarcÚs who does a very fine job. The implication is that she is telling this story from a future point (probably and hopefully around the events of the Red Princess Blues feature). This helps the viewer/ listener get past the fact that we're listening to a very sexy voice tell the tale of a young girl. Garces is no one-tone actress, however. She manages a good separation between the dialogue voice of Princess and the narrative voice of Princess, bringing us through time as the virtual pages turn.
But then... the short ends and we're only given a peek into the world of Princess. In many ways the entire short feels like it should be an extra on the DVD release of Red Princess Blues (whenever that may be). It gives us background we presumably may need, but gives us precious little of the events leading up to The Book of Violence and those rippling from the splash it makes. It's remarkably effective as a preview and hopefully remarkably effective in generating buzz for the film(s) and their surrounding mythology. As a stand-alone, however, the consumer will still be demanding seconds. Three and One Half Stars out of Five for Red Princess Blues Animated: The Book of Violence. I get it, I like it, I want to get more because I'm pretty damned sure I'm going to like that too (especially because Paula Garces is as beautiful in real life as her voice is in the digital world).
If you're smart (you are on WorldsGreatestCritic.com right now) you'll check out RedPrincessBlues.com, look at the still frames and check out the preview. It's worth your time.
If Alex Ferrari is smart (and I think he's gone past the point of having to prove that), he will accompany the release of Red Princess Blues with either more animation or a graphic novel (online or otherwise) to thicken the mystery and perhaps fill in some more blanks. After all, he's already partially there with this seven minute short. Hopefully he won't give too much away in this, but hopefully we'll get more than just a taste when the big, Correlian flick rolls out. See you in the next hollowed-out reel.
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