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Saturday, April 2, 2011

WATERSHIP DOWN (1978)

The intense identification readers developed with the rabbit characters in Richard Adams’ phenomenally popular book is only fleetingly caught in Martin Rosen’s animated adaptation. But that was enough for a big international audience who had already bought into Adams’ cleverly developed rabbity creation myth, lapin theology & hare-brained exodus story. The look was pleasing & painterly (very watercolor/Lake District) and the abrupt stylistic shift away from Disney’s smooth corporate style (in generic doldrums at the time) read as sincerity. This handmade quality, even the slightly shabby earmarks of a reduced frame rate in individual drawings, worked for the film, especially in the rune-like prologue, wonderfully narrated by Michael Hordern, where Adams’ writing has the cadence of a true myth, "all the world will be your enemy, and when they catch you, they will kill you . . . but first they must catch you.’ Little that follows touches that level of imagination, but the basic Moses allegory plays out in a generally satisfying manner, much helped by a remarkable vocal cast that includes John Hurt, Ralph Richardson, Zero Mostel, Harry Andrews & Denholm Elliott. Would the book still enchant? BTW: Don’t believe what they say about the film being too intense for the kiddies. The wee ones know all about blood, gore, death & violence in the wild and will be caught up in no time.

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