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The movie is about Sita, the Hindu Goddess from the epic "The Ramayana", who accompanies Lord Rama on a 14 year exile in forest. Sita is abducted by Ravana, the ruler of Lanka. This movie tells the story of Rama and Sita, along-with a biographical account of the director's relationship with her husband. Written by
There are two cats in the film - Lexi and Bruno. Lexi is the striped cat that Nina and Dave had in San Francisco. Bruno is the black cat that Nina has in her apartment in New York. According to Nina Paley's Director's Commentary, Bruno does, in fact, sleep in Nina's armpit, as shown at the end of the movie. See more »
The musicians are shown playing with the left and right hands reversed. The clarinet, like all woodwinds, is played with the left hand at the top. The violin is held with the left hand and bowed with the right. But in the movie, the clarinet player has the right hand at the top, and the violin is held with the right and bowed with the left. See more »
Dear brother, Ravana, have you seen Rama's wife Sita...? She is the most beautiful woman in the world. Her skin is fair like the lotus blossom. Her eyes are like lotus pools. Her hands are like... from... lotuses. Her breasts like... BIG... ROUND... FIRM... JUICY... LOTUSES.
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The glamour of India, the glamour of the 1920s, the depth-sounding drumbeat of the ancient mythic world, and the woman who loves the wrong kind of man Nina Paley gets them all together, along with a relevant chunk of autobiography about a disappointing husband of her own, in her dazzling first full-length animated feature.
In the ancient Indian story, the Ramayana, Sita is the wife of the man-god Rama, and the embodiment of the Virtuous Wife. She suffers one awful punishment and test after another from her mistrustful and apparently other-directed (what will people think? etc) husband. In Paley's movie, Sita steps forward from time to time to sing a torch-y Jazz Era song ("Mean to Me," and the like) in the voice of Annette Hanshaw, a stylistically elegant and not-well-enough-known voice of the '20s.
Sita's story (kidnapping by 9-headed king, rescue by Rama, rejection by Rama, monkey-god help) alternates with modern-day episodes about Nina's own real-life inexplicably disintegrating marriage, and also with the occasional very funny and illuminating conversation about the Ramayana and its meanings among several of the filmmaker's witty and well-educated Indian friends ("The king had four wives . . . no, three wives . . . three wives and four sons, that's right!!. . . . " "You know if Sita had just gone with the monkey a lot of lives would have been spared . . . ").
You can enjoy it just for the luxurious pleasure of Paley's use of Indian artistic styles in motion, from powerful ancient Hindu motifs, to detailed Moghul-ish backgrounds, to deliriously gaudy street-market devotional calendar art.
For myself, I also came away with the best grasp I've had yet on the Rama-Sita story, more than worth knowing both on the archetypal front (Some Things Never Change) and as background to the hundreds of Indian movie stories that take it up from one angle or another.
July 28, 2009 NOTE - now on DVD!!
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