My Film Of The Fortnight – Sita Sings The Blues
September 3, 2012
By: Gabby Ferro
The wonderful animation, Sita Sings the Blues (2008) is written and directed by the visionary Nina Paley who successfully created a quirky and beautiful film.
From the beginning, the film is bursting with life, music and colour, which delights from start to finish. Paley mixes different styles of animation for her story, which is a reworking of the epic Indian poem, the Ramayana. This follows the character of Sita and her lover, Prince Rama. The main part of the mythology is explained by shadow puppets, three silhouettes who discuss Sita and Prince Rama where they sound like they are having a casual conversation about the story. This makes the story accessible for those that do not know about Hindu mythology.
As the shadow puppets talk, their words are being animated on a screen behind, so you can see both them and the action they are describing. These bits of the story are animated with a look of traditional Indian paintings. These narrators are voiced by three Indians, and their causal way of telling their story, which often involves them making mistakes or telling jokes, adds humour and warmth to the story. As this story is taking place, there is also a modern parallel, which begins in San Francisco, following a couple and their cat. This is also animated differently; it is animated in a way that it looks more like a cartoon strip in a newspaper, with greyish colours.
As Sita’s story is being unraveled, Sita gets a chance to share her point of view, giving the audience a chance to really sympathise with Sita, which shows how the film is giving the traditional tale of the Ramayana a feminist twist. Sita’s point of view has a different animation style where the characters seem more three dimensional and the frames are bursting with bold colours. These sequences are musical numbers have Sita singing, who is dubbed by jazz age singer, Annette Hanshaw. These musical numbers are such a joyful spectacle, which involve some fantastic elements such as the crescent moon, with legs, joining in the number and dancing. This jazz age music surprisingly blends in together with the more traditional Indian music effortlessly. The traditional Indian music, with Sitars and drums, is used in sequences that link the different stories together, and sometimes in segments in between the modern and the mythological stories.
This film has very bizarre and quirky features that might baffle some viewers, but for most this only adds character to the film. I stumbled across this film thanks to Rotten Tomatoes top 100 animations list (it placed 5th), which shows you this film is something special. This is such a lively and beautiful film to watch that I hope anyone that would take my recommendation, will embrace all the films oddities, and enjoy the vibrancy of the film as a whole.
Let me know what you think of the film, if you watch it, in a comment below.