“I hope that you like it. And if you don't, that's OK, because it's very short.” That's what director Wes Anderson told the audience when he introduced “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” at the 80th International Venice Film Festival last month.
Its run time is just shy of 40 minutes. Those who are tired of Anderson's just might like this one as well as the three other short films: “The Swan,” “Poison,” and “The Rat Catcher” (the last three run at 17 minutes each). Anderson is known for quirky storytelling with the use of symmetrical, retro tableaus which look like they have a vintage filter on them and he has a set of actors he likes to work with. Sometimes people get tired of this style, but it works great for these shorts.
This isn't also your typical Netflix experience. First of all, the usual “tudum” is absent from the logo's appearance at the beginning, it makes you wonder if the audio on your monitor is working. The aspect ratio used is 1.37:1 (close to square) vs. the standard 16:9, and they're shot using 16mm film.
It's almost like you're watching a grade school play — except your troupe of rotating players (who also sometimes double as stage hands and set costumers) are Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rupert Friend and Richard Ayoade. Ralph also plays the part of Roald Dahl, chatting with us from his famous writing shed. The actors likewise address the audience, reeling them in as they narrate sections of the story in a breathless, rapid-fire fashion.
The sets often change (with hands visibly doing so) the presence of unseen props is mimed.
This manner of telling these selected Dahl stories matches the material. The shorts incredibly clever in their own way, each makes a great brief pre-bedtime watch. Perhaps can participate by setting up their own tableau of soft pillows, a blanket, some milk and warm cookies to complete the experience.
While Dahl is best known for his children's stories like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda” and “James and the Giant Peach,” he has written share of melancholic and macabre short stories. Most of us who read him when we were younger didn't know then he had made prejudicial comments in his interviews. His surviving family has apologized “unreservedly” for these “incomprehensible” views and say they are in “marked contrast to the values of kindness and inclusivity at the heart of Roald Dahl's stories.
The first season of “Ahsoka” wrapped up on Disney plus, it is one of better Star Wars products out there. It has great new creatures like the noti (turle like people), the purrgil (space whales) and howlers (reptilian wolf horses). Unfortunately, we don't know if we'll learn more about the somber and secretive Baylon Skoll after the death of the actor who played him, Ray Stevenson.
“The Continental: From the World of John Wick” also wrapped up with the release of its third installment. It may not have gotten critics excited, but I did enjoy the story of how Winston Scott took over The Continental—with the well place 70's music hits, the creepy looking assassin twins, Hansel and Gretel, the decadence of New York in the 70's. It has a different feel from the movies but the lore is there.
“Loki” Season 2 just started and hopefully there's more banter between Moebius and Loki and they make something out of Ke Huy Quan's character, Ouroboros. I am not sure what Edgar Allan Poe would make of it but “The Fall of the House of Usher” is now a brand series set in present day with the Usher family being involved in pharmaceuticals. It's available to stream this weekend.
Have a good Friday the 13th.
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