Walt Disney and crew’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this week’s featured movie in Nathaniel’s Best Shot series, doesn’t really suggest images to me but acceleration. There’s this slowness to their movements but there’s this jolt of urgency to them as the movie progresses. The characters are also the only solid blocks of colour, the opposite of their Medieval-styled ornate surroundings. Here are some of my favourite shots.
Ok, this image is more of a static and and I didn’t even feel like including this because it feels like I’m just repeating my Black Narcissus best shot. Springtime is for lovers and Disney’s version puts us smack dab in the middle of the story as opposed to taking us to Snow White’s parents, etc. I know you know the story but the original Grimm Brothers’ tale is about Snow White’s growth as a domestic and sexual being, as well as the Evil Queen being Snow White’s mother and the Prince being the father, if I haven’t ruined your childhood yet. Anyway, this shot reminds me of the movie’s operatic structure, this tenor complementing Snow White’s coloratura. There’s also the Medieval costume’s drapery being very creamy throughout the film, influencing how we see these characters’ movement and posture. He’s not as effete as most of the Disney princes but those shoes look like they can walk on water.
Just like her suitor’s footwear, Snow White represents the daintiness of womanhood that earlier literature – and 1937 counts as ‘early’ – propagates, going through the woods and surviving while wearing pumps. She glides on surfaces instead of touching them like normal humans. She finds refuge from her homicidal (step)mother in the most hopeful of places. However it’s strange how these strangers can carve wood for their houses but find no time to dust heir house. Digging all day is not an excuse. It’s also more infuriating that her ragged state while shining the Queen’s Palace’s front steps is framed as slavery but cleaning for a bunch of dudes is totally ok. But we’ll give her brownie points for venturing into the cottage on her own and leveraging her lodgings and influencing the dwarfs’ eating habits. But that still feels codependent.
But can I really begrudge such people, even if they scare me more now than I did when I was a child? The dwarfs, by the way, probably start the tradition of fairy tale creatures as surrogate husbands, later prototypes of which include the original “Peter Pan.” This shot is my best shot simply because it will begin my quest to decide which dwarf is which. Doc, Dopey and Grumpy are the most constant characters so they’re the easiest to tell but to know the others I had to look into their eyes, which is nearly impossible if they’re moving too fast and freaking out while they’re imagining a monster sleeping in their beds. Thank God I eventually used the pause button. Also, this shot is one of the few examples that show how these characters have no bones in their bodies. They’re swift yet also graceful.
And finally the shot of the Queen. This scene is the Wicked Stepmother’s Lady MacBeth moment, having to take away her own femininity to make herself do the evil deeds that she believes must be done. The hoarseness within the voice actress becomes externalized, her slim figure becoming more brittle. This also baffles me after this recent rewatch because she is getting herself ugly to defeat the young woman more beautiful than her. Eventually she poisons the princess, their only onscreen encounter which is surprisingly not hostile.
I would like to begin this post by saying that today is my birthday! And thanks to Dan Stephens, not only do I get one wish but ten, being a part of this blogathon that asks its…members?… about the fictional movie worlds I would like to enter for specific reasons. This blogathon is inspired by his post on The Last Action Hero. I’ve only seen the trailer for this movie, even if there’s a local cinema that plays this move once in a while. Anyway, let’s begin!
What character would you most like to be sat next to on a plane?
That woman who is one of James Cole’s (Bruce Willis) boss from Twelve Monkeys. Or better yet, any character from Twelve Monkeys.
What character would you most want to enjoy a passionate romance with?
Dotorre Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintingnant) from The Conformist, although it wouldn’t end well.
If you were a cop who would you want as your partner?
In who could also be my answer for the passionate romance question, Billy Costigan (Leonardo di Caprio) from The Departed. Digression, but Leo should have been nominated for here Oscar here instead of Blood Diamond.
What animated feature would you love to walk around in?
Fantasia, like are you kidding me? The first sequence is Abstract Expressionism avant la lettre! I’ve also drunkenly danced to the ballet dancing hippos, so I guess I have used my ticket for this already.
What adventure based on earth would you most like to go on / OR / What adventure based in an otherworldly, fantasy-based location would you most like to go on? I.e. Would you like to join the Goonies on their treasure-finding mission, or Luke Skywalker in his search for his family’s murderer?
For the earthly one, I’d choose whatever happens in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I know that I probably won’t survive but swordplay is an adventure.
When it comes to the fantasy-based place, I’d pick Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) trying not to erase Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) froom his memory in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because what could be more otherworldly than someone else’s changing brain?
What movie gadget would you love to try out (or steal)?
The Delorean in the Back to the Future films. Are we even allowed to talk about this magic transportation movie in a post about another magical way of transportation? Or can we talk about the art house version of those gadgets, specifically the movie screen in The Purple Rose of Cairo?
What film’s plot would you alter and how would you do it?
Atom Egoyan’s Chloë. I don’t know how and I don’t know if my presence and power would cure the plot from being ridiculous.
What one film would you most want to be transported into, simply to be a part of that world?
The 1860’s in The Leopard. I know it’s unsanitary and heteronormative and that period has religious hypocrisy, but it’s also like Gone with the Wind but in Italian. And the balls and the chance to dance with either Principe Felipe de Salina (Burt Lancaster) or his son’s fiancée (Claudia Cardinale)? Get me my Magic Houdini ticket now.
The first shot reminds me of the first shot in Mulholland Drive, which is funny since there’s sexuality, fear, mortality, cynicism and a bit of humour in that movie and here in Fantasia. My friends first saw this when they were four and I saw this last week. I can only imagine a few kids getting confused with what they see here. Well, I am more susceptible to trauma and have a dirtier mind now than I did when I was a kid.
I thought that the faeries dancing to “The Nutcracker Suite” were the most famous images in this movie, but apparently it’s the warlock horror narrative in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – I swear I’ve never seen that one before and it’s a nail-biter. Henry Allen writes about how Fantasia in 1940 preceded and is the polar opposite to the weary American attitude towards science and high culture. I do think that “Apprentice” shows how innovation can go too far and have the destructive result that its inventor didn’t want. There is also a more popular segment with dancing hippos that I didn’t care so much about.
I also encountered the music here in other sources – Beethoven’s Pastoral in some compilation CD. Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” in high school and Schubert’s “Ave Maria” when I was going through a soprano phase when I was in high school. Just so we’re clear, Alex North and everyone else after him owes Stravinsky a royalty cheque. Watching “Printemps” with dinosaurs was a weird concept to me, especially since I’m more familiar with that ballet’s later movements. To me, that final music’s always been about violence surrounded by beauty, and Walt Disney and his interns made it look like apocalypse. Well, what do I know? Other choreographers like Nijinsky/Dominique Brun and Pina Bausch have more violent interpretations of the music. And again, the fear that what happened to the dinosaurs will happen to us. And the wind instruments in the later movements do remind me of arid landscapes. And I’ve always heard “Ave Maria” sung by either a boy/woman in German, not English. I also imagined it to me like a little voice trying to climb into a space above, preferably a church, which I guess mostly matches Disney’s visuals. But I couldn’t say that what I saw didn’t dazzle me. The animators went all out and an extra mile, animating images they’ll never show elsewhere. And I kinda wanna know what they would have done if they did “Swan Lake.”