Sita Sings the Blues

Pub date May 5, 2009
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

REVIEW A few years ago, independent animator and comic strip artist Nina Paley left San Francisco for India, where her boyfriend had found employment. A while later, during a visit home, she received a surprise, brusque communication from the bf informing her she need not return — the relationship was over. Just what the bf ultimately got out of this episode is unknown. But Paley got posterity: her first feature film, inspired by both the breakup and the ancient Sanskrit epic the Ramayana, is artistic therapy that also happens to be just about the most delightful movie in eons, cartoon or otherwise. Utilizing very different animation techniques, she cuts between a blatantly autobiographical tale of romantic woe and the mythological travails of Sita, beloved of the noble Rama. He rescues her from an amorous, abducting rival, but his chivalry dies when false accusations about her "purity" threaten to tarnish his image. Then, as now, men are pigs. Sita wriggles through her fate like a Bollywood Betty Boop, frequently crooning vintage 78 tracks by Jazz Age blues chanteuse Annette Hanshaw, and the visual wit on display is akin to Max Fleischer’s antics plus intellectual gamesmanship, grotesque streaks, and eye-popping color. Paley breaks the fourth wall in umpteen ingenious ways. Sita Sings the Blues is so full of fun and invention you may start looking forward to seeing it again after it’s barely started.

SITA SINGS THE BLUES runs Fri/8–Tues/12 at the Red Vic. See Rep Clock.