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  Alice Wonder-What-Is-Happening-Land
Year: 1982
Director: Jacel Bromski, Jerzy Gruza
Stars: Sophie Barjac, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Susannah York, Paul Nicholas, Lulu, Jack Wild, Dominic Guard, Tracy Hyde, Peter Straker, Marc Seaberg, David Toguri, Joanna Bartel
Genre: Musical, Romance, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Alice (Sophie Barjac) is in the park, watching people walk their dogs, children playing and joggers jogging. She sits down on a bench and a little girl she knows wanders up and starts a conversation, wondering where Alice had been and telling her of her latest boyfriends, a subject the grown-up is reluctant to discuss. Suddenly a jogger (Jean-Pierre Cassel) catches her eye and she realises he is about to be assassinated by two hitmen, but as the shot rings out it is she who falls to the ground...

You might not guess it from that opening, but this is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, a European co-production of the kind that would give rise to the term "Europudding" in later years when such things were attempting wide appeal and appealing to all too few. The fantasy tale has captured the imagination of many creative types over the years, from the Disney version to the Tim Burton one, and almost as many who film the material as straight from the page have decided to put their own idiosyncratic spin on it, which is what we are presented with here.

In fact, although the characters share the names and random personality quirks with their literary namesakes, the story they're caught up in has very little to do with the classic source. Cassel's jogger is called Rabbit, and he does say he's late for a very important date, but he doesn't have big ears or a penchant for carrots (much) and is vaguely conceived as we never really find out what he does. Is he a businessman? The next time we see him he is touring the factory where Alice works, tapdancing as he does so, but whether he is there to inspect the premises or wants to get close to the young woman is, once more, unclear.

As it turns out, the Rabbit and Alice do get together in spite of him being twice her age - must be all that prancing about he does to keep himself fit. This Alice is actually a divorcée from Paul Nicholas, who for no good plot reason is an airline pilot called Cheshire Cat, and she's not looking for love as shown by the manner in which she shuns co-workers Mock Turtle (Jack Wild) and the Gryphon (Dominic Guard) who are vying for a place in her affections and failing miserably; Wild's Turtle doesn't help his chances by dropping amazing facts into his conversation apropos of nothing.

As if all this twisting a favourite book out of shape was not enough, it's a musical too, with a repeated song "Love is the Answer" taking up much of the soundtrack with different variations, most crooned by pop star Lulu. It would be a simple romance if it were not for the pretensions, which naturally make it compelling as you end up watching it to see what new item of eccentricity will be thrown up next. The height of this is where Alice apparently attempts suicide and finds herself via an animated plughole in a disco which happens to be playing that song again, a sequence which culminates in her public execution. Susannah York as the evil Queenie seems to be behind all this, but exactly how is unfathomable and the finale raises more questions than it answers. A curio all round, this is one of those films that you assume meant more to the filmmakers than the audience, but it does intrigue. Music by Henri Seroka.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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