And I'm back.
Also from the mall, I brought back with me Tom Waits' collection of b-sides, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards, and the new, 25th anniversary edition of The Last Unicorn, the animated movie from 1983. Yes, there's finally a DVD edition I felt comfortable buying, even though Peter S. Beagle still isn't getting paid (though he will, apparently, if you buy it through that website). And despite the fact that the word "damn" has been edited out of the audio, few and innocuous though the instances were that it was spoken. Apparently this is for all the parents who aren't buying the movie because they remember it from their own childhood, and who are afraid to let their children hear even swearwords that're allowed on network television. And who think the word itself is inherently worse than Mommy Fortuna's death at the talons of the harpy whose three human-like breasts hang naked on her chest. You know, sometimes it's fun trying to picture the bizarre, self-contradictory monster censorship is evidently meant for. A hydra whose heads are forever multiplying as they compulsively decapitate one another.
Anyway, the new DVD is not only widescreen but has also been remastered decently enough. And it's a pleasure to watch--all the animators, all five or six of them, are listed in the credits, so it makes sense that animation is only sporadically fluid. That's really okay, though--often times, the key to good animation is not to emulate real-world motion, but to use artistic judgement to decide when to animate, and when to let the audience drink in the picture. Mostly good judgement is used here, and I'm not surprised Hayao Miyazaki snatched this team up in the late 80s.
There's a limited colour palette, which at times gives the movie an interesting look, a sort of stained glass quality. Other times, as in night scenes where characters are coloured as brightly as in day scenes, it looks like someone got their Colorforms sets mixed up. Of course, this is largely because paint is expensive, and before the whole process was moved to computers, artists would have to work with thousands of individual paint colours to get the right image. And this was a low budget movie. The only other real problem with it is the horrible America songs, which are much like nails on a chalkboard, especially when Mia Farrow and Jeff Bridges start singing.
Those two do a decent job at acting, though. Even better are Alan Arkin, Rene Auberjonois, Angela Lansbury, and most especially Christopher Lee as King Haggard. I got lost in the movie whenever he started talking.
It's well-written, with a screenplay by Beagle. It seems very much focused on themes of immortality, entropy, and death. Mommy Fortuna keeps the harpy captive despite knowing it shall escape and kill her one day because the harpy is immortal and will always remember Fortuna. Molly laments finding a unicorn now that she's no longer a young girl. The unicorn is most distressed upon becoming human by the fact that she can feel her body dying. King Haggard's life grows ever more dreary, and he greedily grasps at every tiny drop of happiness. Even the tree tells Schmendrick that a tree's love is the greatest because it lasts forever.
It's a good movie. I have a feeling the book's even better. I hope Beagle reacquires the rights and manages to make it into a movie franchise, as he apparently is trying to do.
On an unrelated note, here's a bit of fun (NSFW).