Saturday, March 7, 2015

Paul Grimault & Jacques Prévert's "The King and the Mockingbird" at Northwest Film Forum: March 19 - 22

Later this month a rare screening of Paul Grimault's "The King and the Mockingbird" will have a brief four-day run at Northwest Film Forum. Based loosely on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep", while mixing in a bit of Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", the urban underbelly of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", the oppression of the working class in Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times", a villain straight out of a satirical Stalin-esque cult of personality and the subconscious detours found in the animated Max Fleischer adventures of the 1930s-1940s. Ad to this the design and setting influences of surrealist painters Giorgio de Chirico and Yves Tanguy, who was a collegial friend of the author of the film's screenplay. The complexity of this mid-century animated masterwork's influences is exceeded by it's storied decades-long production. Paul Grimault with the author of the proto-Noir classic, "Port of Shadows" Jacques Prévert on writing duties, began work on the project in 1947, after various disputes that ended production their producer released the film in an unfinished form, without either's permission. At which point it's real epic begins, Grimault spent 10 years in legal battles acquiring the rights to the film and another 20 raising the money to complete it as he and Prévert had envisioned. Decades later, it was finally finished and released in 1979 in France and central Europe with very little to no international distribution. Seen upon it's 1979 release by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata it has been credited as "The Film that Inspired the Founding of Studio Ghibli", with Ghibli returned the favor in 2012 with their own restored Japanese release and distribution of the film under the title, "Ōu to Tori". The North American premier of this new restoration came at last year's New York Film Festival with a run following at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Very favorable press at the time from The Village Voice, Time Out and the New York Times going some way to describe this bold hybrid of social commentary and satirical opulence, sci-fi polish, Swift-ian adventure and a lyrical and poetic tale of liberation at it's core, "Grimault's frames do the opposite of those that imprison film's escaping lovers; the director invites us in, to play and dream."