Friday, March 5, 2010

Under Wonderland?

Two Friday nights spent seeing films which opened that day: last week, The Ghost Writer and today, Alice in Wonderland. Both were definitely worth seeing. Early impressions: Pierce Brosnan is much more believable now that he's a bit over the hill rather than beautiful. And I've resisted the appeal of Johnny Depp for a long time but he's a delightful Mad Hatter. The Ghost Writer demonstrates that Roman Polanski has not lost his touch in the slightest. He was always great at creating a film with subtle menacing not horror or thriller.

Unlike a lot of people in this country today, I would cut him a break after all these years. Yes, he did the wrong thing by running--leaving aside whether he was guilty of the crime. But the system had set itself up to do a number on him and he saw no other way out. Remember it was his wife who was murdered. By the way, Polanski has some fun making Brosnan's character a bit of a dissolute Tony Blair. And then he shows how in the end the Establishment squeezes anything but its version of what happened out of the picture.

Back to the movies. Tim Burton has taken the impossible-to-dramatize work of Lewis Carroll and had some fun with it. Some of the wonderful characters are there--Alan Rickman voicing the Caterpillar, one of my absolute favorites, was superb. Stephen Fry, too, voicing the Cheshire Cat, was equally adept. It was all good fun with little traces here and there of the original. I do wish that in addition to "off with their heads," they had retained two of the Red Queen's other marvelous lines: "Sentence first, trial later" and "Don't you have to run as fast as you can to stay in the same place?"

We seem today only to want to emphasize feet of clay. Was Lewis Carroll a bit dodgy in his liking for little girls? I recall reading about the long life of Alice Liddell, supposedly the model for Alice in the books. She sounded in her recollections like he was hardly dangerous, just hard to understand. The books themselves are delightfully full of the illogical conundrums that only a brilliant mathematician like Charles Dodgson could conjure up.

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