Sita Sings the Blues (review)

I’m planning this to be a new regular Wednesday feature: a superindie, a movie available for anyone to view that has not gotten a traditional release. It might be available online, or to purchase on DVD from the filmmaker, or some other way that avoids traditional multiplexes and arthouses.

How does heartbreak become art? Just like this. Animator Nina Paley, prompted by her own romantic troubles, melds an ancient Indian story — The Ramayana, about the exile of Prince Rama and the devotion of his beloved wife, Sita, even during her capture by the evil king Ravana — with a modern tale about San Franciscan Nina, who follows her husband, Dave, when work takes him to India, with disastrous results. Like a storybook in motion, Paley’s delightful mix of animation styles draws visual inspiration from a panoply of 20th-century pop culture — everything from golden-age Hollywood musicals and Monty Python to video games and comic books — and classical Indian art to create a crosscultural collage that embraces the universality of feminine rage at men who treat women abominably, and the refusal of a gal to let herself become a helpless victim of male pride and possessiveness. Bridging the woes of Sita and Nina is a clever soundtrack of old torch songs by Betty Boop-voiced 1920s jazz star Annette Hanshaw… which Paley accompanies with ultramodern vector-graphic animation: it’s in these segments that the film is at its most triumphantly audacious, giving us a feisty but lamenting version of Sita that challenges the traditional constraints on the female gender. Wonderfully inventive and witty, this is smart eye candy to nourish and stir a lovesick soul.
Watch Sita Sings the Blues online on YouTube. Here’s the first part:

Other options for viewing are available at the film’s official site.

share and enjoy
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Jan Willem
Jan Willem
Wed, May 27, 2009 5:51pm

Ain’t Sita great. And MaryAnn didn’t even mention the hilarious commentary by the three shadow puppets!

I’ve been bugging friends (and one online film critic) to watch this witty gem for some two months now. If you view it through YouTube, be sure to hit the HD button. (You’ll have to repeat this procedure every time a new instalment starts, but it’s worth it. Full screen mode also helps.)

The tale about the movie’s limited release in theatres and the limitation to 5000 official DVDs due to corporate ownership of the songs’ copyright is a fascinating story, too. Paley’s decision to essentially give the movie away and hope for voluntary donations is a creative response indeed.

That’s all.

Wed, May 27, 2009 11:14pm

So, will these wednesday superindie reviews all be positive?

Thu, May 28, 2009 2:26am

So, will these Wednesday superindie reviews possibly include at some point Repo! The Genetic Opera? B)