Saturday, August 8, 2009

CORALINE (Henry Selick, 2009, USA)

"When I speak the word eye, it’s as if I am speaking of somebody’s eye that I faintly remember….” -Bob Dylan
Coraline’s new home is the same as the old: separated from her selfish parents by a distance measured in imagination and unrequited love…until she discovers a sawdust world where everything is cute as a button. Neil Gaiman has once again proved to be the ingenious bard of the new century, telling a grim fairy tale that moves to the mystic rhythm of female empowerment and childhood trauma, resurrecting ghosts that continue to haunt our adult consciousnesses. Within us, these ubiquitous fears are sewn into the very fabric of ourselves: repressed or recognized, Gaiman understands that to be human is to be scared. He is not afraid to tell a children’s story that resonates with very real anxiety and angst. There is a vicious dreamlike quality to CORALINE that the condescendingly inane DreamWorks and Pixar fluff cannot touch, a deep narrative abyss whose mirror-like gaze doesn’t reflect, but traps the souls of dead children. Coraline traverses this nebulous boundary between the worlds of harsh reality and seemingly uncontaminated adoration: her “other mother & father” resplendent with love and affection: a young girl finally understood and respected by her parents, a dream come true. Director Henry Selick’s animation is gorgeously rendered and adds a visionary depth to the subtext that could not be captured in flesh and blood: this is the abstract envisioned in three dimensions, breathing fresh life into clay characters who otherwise could not escape the prison of the typical cinematic form. The precocious heroine soon discovers that all is not what it seems, and she must use all of her resources to escape this buttonhole Hell. Her real parents remain trapped by the spidery Matriarch, and Coraline unselfishly decides to help other children stitched to this purgatory. With a little help from a cat, whose Cheshire eyes reflect its grinning audacity, she begins a deadly game that could destroy her…or save her friends. Finally, Coraline’s world is eclipsed by her mundane existence but a small gift reveals that true love does indeed lurk beneath her mother’s hard veneer…and it’s this tiny victory that has changed her world. (B+)

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