Review: Sita Sings the Blues (2/5)

“Sita Sings the Blues” is Nina Paley’s personal interpretation of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, rendered as an animated musical feature. The film links two parallel romantic tragedies: the disintegrating relationship between Rama and Sita, and the break-up of Paley’s marriage.

According to Paley, “The aspect of the story that I focus on is the relationship between Sita and Rama, who are gods incarnated as human beings, and even they can't make their marriage work. Right, and then there's my story. I'm just an ordinary human, who also can't make her marriage work. And the way that it fails is uncannily similar to the way Rama and Sita's [relationship fails]. Inexplicable yet so familiar.”

The presentation is wildly imaginative. It used four distinct styles of animation depicting episodes from the Ramayana, musical interludes by a Betty Boop-gone-Bollywood version of Sita lip-synching 1920s jazz tracks from Annette Hanshaw, Paley’s contemporary relationship struggles, and a narrative slash conversation among three shadow puppets. This humorous and witty trio deconstructs the epic and gives their no-holds-barred commentary. It is like attending a World History lecture from an ultra-hip teacher who is opinionated and as funny as Annabelle Rama.

On the technical side, “Sita Sings the Blues” utilizes Flash animation, vector graphics, Rajput style of brush painitng, and Squigglevision. These techniques blend perfectly in this light-hearted and oftentimes humorous take on the Ramayana.

Although the film is barely 90 minutes long, it is inevitable to be disengaged with the flow of the story. Despite its cleverness and inventiveness, it inexplicably failed to sustain our interest.


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