Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom, 1984. Incorporated Television Company, Palace Pictures. Screenplay by Angela Carter, Neil Jordan, based on the story by Angela Carter, and the story Petit Chaperon Rouge by Charles Perrault. Cinematography by Bryan Loftus. Produced by Chris Brown, Stephen Woolley. Music by George Fenton. Production Design by Anton Furst. Costume Design by Elizabeth Waller. Film Editing by Rodney Holland. Toronto International Film Festival 1984.
A classic fairy tale of yore is given creative treatment by writer Angela Carter, who here adapts her book with director Neil Jordan for this often disturbing film. Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) falls asleep to the sound of her sister Alice banging on her door and begins to dream, taking us into a a magical forest where she is Little Red Riding Hood. The rites of passage connected to maturity into adulthood populate her dreams as first she deals with the death of her sister while living with her distraught but devoted parents, then spends time with her grandmother, played by a superb Angela Lansbury. Lansbury is inspired to tell the young woman a series of stories that help guide her through her burgeoning womanhood, of romances gone sour that generally involving someone turning into a werewolf. The original children’s tale is amplified by Neil Jordan’s ripe imagery and exciting makeup effects, though the various stories within stories lean a lot more on allegory than on any kind of dramatic catharsis, the small arcs of the various tales combined together leave you with a deeper impression of its symbolism than of the personalities involved. If you were hoping for an exciting horror film you will be disappointed, but anyone open to its more artistically eccentric story loops might find it a bit too keen on its theory as well. The artificial atmosphere of the woods creates a sense of enchantment that make its most memorable segments thrilling, and Lansbury does shine above all other performers in a wonderfully ornate performance. Look for an unbilled cameo by Terence Stamp as the Devil, and an early performance by Jordan’s frequent collaborator Stephen Rea.