Sita Sings the Blues; the review

The Better Half and I hosted one of our best friends this past weekend. We took a trip up to Waterville to have dinner at the sublime Freedom Cafe, and as luck would have it we had just received a recent mailing from Railroad Square Cinema about their current offerings. (A short digression -- the existence of those two establishments was a major reason I was able to survive the move from Manhattan to mid-Maine. May they stay in business forever.) I had heard nothing about Sita Sings the Blues, but was intrigued enough to suggest it to our friend, and the three of us decided to give it a shot.

It was fantastic, and utterly unlike anything I have ever seen at the theater before. A cunning, hilarious and poignant retelling of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, which tells of the marriage of Rama and Sita, Sita Sings the Blues also deals with the break-up of the film-maker (who did the vast majority of the work on the production herself) and her husband. In between expository segments (narrated by three droll shadow puppets) and dramatic re-enactments, Sita's travails are expressed through the songs of Annette Hanshaw (a 20s blues singer). The animation varies between sections, from crude line-drawings to brilliantly-colored celestial panorama, each of which contributes to the narrative in a unique and fascinating way.

The animator, Nina Paley, has made the entire work available for download, but if you can find a local screening, go see it. It is one of the most inventive things I have ever seen, and deserves to be enjoyed in the theater.

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