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Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories

This weekend, we get the gravy and the gristle. Two wildly different fairy tales come to select theaters: Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard and Don Hahn’s Waking Sleeping Beauty. Reviews from Michael Koresky below:

The horrific bedtime story of Bluebeard is so ready for feminist subversion that news of Catherine Breillat’s tackling it almost arrives as something of a punchline. Often read to girls at an early age, this cautionary tale, about the ogre-ish nobleman who turns out to be a serial wife-killer, becomes fertile ground for exploring the seeds of Western sexual politics—recall the interlude in Jane Campion’s The Piano in which a stage production of the story, acted in frightening silhouette, causes shocked Aboriginal audience members to brutally retaliate, while the whites look on unashamed. At its core a disturbingly instructive narrative about the importance of trust within male-female relations, the tale of the nefarious Bluebeard ultimately lays the blame for violence at the wife’s feet—if only she hadn’t unlocked that one forbidden room the poor heroine could have saved her sweet neck. It’s not just a matter of curiosity killing the cat but also of the woman not fulfilling her nuptial duties; regardless of her husband’s barbarism, it’s unlikely that murder would have befallen her if she had done as he asked.

None of this is that different from themes woven into many centuries-old fairy tales. Breillat’s new film ruminates on these matters, yet she’s not in forthright pedantic mode: rather, she’s closer to her self-reflexive satire Sex Is Comedy. Read more.

Waking Sleeping Beauty:
Waking Sleeping Beauty, the new documentary directed by Don Hahn, the producer of the Disney animated blockbusters Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, and produced by Peter Schneider, who in addition to a successful career in Broadway, was at different points the Chairman of Disney Studios and its President of Animation, is an odd duck indeed. On the one hand, it’s a pure, unadulterated shot of self-congratulation: a mostly fond look back at the ten years in Disney’s history (1984-1994) that saw the studio pick itself up by its bootstraps and, by sheer force of capitalist will, believably remold itself as the dream factory for quality, epochal animated features, a reputation that had fallen off quite a bit since the late sixties when the studio, and even Walt himself, had largely lost interest in the art form. On the other, it’s a fleet, revealing look at the studio as singular corporate entity, and thus a schizophrenic attempt to honor its toiling craftsmen while also giving due prominence to the executive infighting that made the studio in that era a target for media gossip as much as a candidate for accolades—and as such it’s highly unflattering to most of the subjects and participants. A final narration reminds us that one day “no one will remember the fights—they’ll remember the films and the characters.” Well until that day comes, we have Waking Sleeping Beauty to heartily remind us. Read more.

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