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STUDIO: Cinema Epoch
RUNNING TIME: 69 minutes
• Audio commentary with the director
• Character and production stills
• Miniature paintings gallery
• Theatrical trailer
A bizarre little fable acted out by even more bizarre stop-motion animated creatures.
Aristocratic mice, oak dwellers, mystical frogs and carnivorous plants.
War. War never changes.
The white mice like living life to the fullest. They spend their days in their fancy little grotto, getting drunk off of blood wine and playing cards. One day they decide to commission some oak dwelling creatures to craft them a beautiful doll to play with. Created out of cloth and an egg, the doll is so beautiful the oak dwellers fall in love with it and refuse to part with her.
Under the cover of night, the mice steal the doll away from the oak dwellers and speed it back to their grotto. Not ones to be taken advantage of so lightly, the oak dwellers suit up and begin a surreal and bizarre journey across the countryside to rescue their purloined creation.
And the children could barely contain their excitement, for the Spleen Fairy was set to visit them while they slumbered.
Since the film is the work of one person, it would make sense that most of the special features revolve around her. Director Christiane Cegavske provides feature commentary and narrates over galleries of production art, character stills and miniature paintings. She is joined by film critic Luke Thompson.
Cegavske is an articulate and bright filmmaker but also seems quite shy and reserved, which is why Thompson is there to coax information out of her and prevent any of the commentaries from becoming silent.
She has a lot of information to offer, including some self-depreciating comments about the quality of the earliest portions of the film she completed. Since the film has no dialogue, you won’t miss that much listening to her comments on the feature commentary and might just gain a better appreciation of the work as a whole.
Honey, it’s hard for daddy to concentrate on his killer UNO hand with you sitting in his lap.
Blood Tea & Red String is an impressive animated feature, especially considering it’s the work of one person. Taking thirteen years to complete, it’s certainly an ambitious and creative approach to filmmaking that many people wouldn’t have the patience to see through to the end.
The story is told without dialogue or narration of any sort, which can make it somewhat confusing upon the initial viewing. Reading the plot description off the back of the DVD case really helps decipher what exactly the motivations of the characters are and allows more concentration to be spent on admiring the art and design rather than trying to puzzle out what’s going on.
Parts of the story owe much to classic fables and fairy tales, especially the meandering nature of the narrative which glides from one unrelated event to the other. Are the oak dwellers’ encounters with man eating plants or giant black widows very important to the story in the long run? Not really, but more enjoyment is found in the journey than in the resolution.
Da plane! Da plane!
The animation is hardly on the level of a professional production and sometimes becomes jerkier than your typical episode of Gumby, but it’s important to keep in mind how small and personal of a project this really is. For the work of one woman and clocking in at 69 minutes, it’s a real accomplishment. In any instance where the animation itself is lacking, the art design and the ideas behind the action more than pick up the slack.
It’s nothing reovlutionary or thought provoking, but it’s always nice to see a very creative effort from a dedicated person. It remains to be seen if Cegavske will be able to follow up on Blood Tea & Red String, but she can be proud of her first feature and know it was thirteen years well spent.