Alice in Wonderland (1972)

Words Without Misunderstanding

I am an Alice obsessive. I recently saw the Depp/Burton project and was horrified at the opportunity missed. So I turned to this, surprised that I had not seen it before.

This at least has a couple advantages. Though far less colorful and lacking imagination in the design, it conforms to the text mostly and draws images from the original drawings. That is to the good, because the original has some profound structure and some lines that zing. If you don’t have the patience to read the little book, you won’t get this anyway, so to recommend the film on this basis is sorta useless.

Where Depp pranced and drew something from who knows where, this had Peter Sellers! Peter Sellers as the March Hare! Amazing. He is paired with Dudley Moore and some nobody. This was during a period of substance abuse for them both. While they only speak the lines from the book, it is rewarding just seeing them.

There is a very clever extension of Carroll’s framing device of Alice in the bank, dreaming. The extension has her on that famous boat trip with Carroll and others where the story was supposedly told. (It actually had been told in pieces developed over seven years, with pieces added in the writing.)

Though we have the story more or less as written, the production is a disaster. This is because the filmmaker missed the tone of the thing. This is not silly nonsense that is amenable to a high-school play nonchalance; this is deep silly, funny stuff that makes you laugh and if you think about it demonstrates what von Neumann mathematically proved 80 years later: logic doesn’t cut it.

The book was written by the leading logician in England, ensconced at Oxford. They miss that this is disorder that matters. Some filmmakers get this. I’d like to see Richard Kelly do an Alice.

Because Disney decided Alice’s dress was blue, it is blue here.

Posted in 2010

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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