CAPSULE: Nina Paley interweaves her own story of her relationship with her lover (husband?) with a parallel story of the Indian epic poem, the Ramayana. Paley emphasizes the relationship of Rama and his wife Sita. Each layer of the story seems to have its own animation style and the narration, apparently done by shadow puppets, is apparently informal and very funny. Sita sings out her sadness in the voice of 1920s blues singer Annette Hanshaw. The film is charming on many levels. It may be running on PBS stations, but it can be downloaded for free. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
SITA SINGS THE BLUES is a unique animated film, 81 minutes in length. It tells a double story of director/screenwriter/producer Nina Paley and her relationship with her man, and in a parallel line it is a retelling of the story of the Ramayana, one of the two great epic poems of Hindu culture (the other being the Mahabharata). Each animated story is done in its own style, but greater screen time and much greater creativity goes into the Ramayana story. Each different level of the story uses its own animation technique from very simple to complex. The film seems heavily influenced by Terry Gilliam's animation in films like MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, but there are also pieces that look like better animation films from the National Film Board of Canada.
In one plotline the story of the Ramayana is commented on by three shadow puppets who apparently learned the story in their youth but who cannot quite agree on how the story should be told. Their style is something between that of a Greek chorus and that of the robots on "Mystery Science Theater 3000". They argue about the facts of the story and correct each other. They tell the story of Rama who was unjustly banished from his father's kingdom. His wife Sita follows him into the forests. There the evil Ravana sees Sita and decides to abduct her. Will Rama rescue his loyal wife? Will Sita's and Rama's loving relationship ever be restored. Sita pours out her feelings, and they come out as songs from 1920s blues singer Annette Hanshaw. The story has parallels to Paley's relationship to her lover and their relationship is similarly tested when from San Francisco he gets a six-month job in India. The humor comes from many levels. The images are full of visual puns. Westerners will find this a light and bright introduction to the Ramayana.
This film is not being sold anywhere. It is being given away free with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. That means everybody is allowed to copy it, share it, download it ... everything but make money off of it. That is very rare for a feature-length film and more so for a film that is this much fun. Channel 13 (NY) is not only making it available for download (see below) but they also broadcast it.
All the various visual styles come together perfectly. It is rare to find a film that can be enjoyed from start to finish. I rate SITA SINGS THE BLUES a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10. Take my word on this one. You can see it free. If you watch five minutes I bet you will watch the whole film, even if you do not think you would have an interest in the Ramayana. See it.
The film is on-line from Channel 13, New York at http://tinyurl.com/sita-sings-blues
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1172203/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sita_sings_the_blues/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper