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Sita Sings the Blues

by Leonard Maltin
December 12, 2009 7:20 AM
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I must confess I am very late in joining the parade of fans that filmmaker Nina Paley has attracted with her charming animated film. I just purchased a DVD from her website, where you can also download the feature and even purchase Sita merchandise. I wanted to support the independent filmmaker, who has taken to giving away her movie to protest...

copyright laws that have stymied her use of vintage recordings on its soundtrack. (This is all part of a complicated back story that you can read about online.) I don’t completely agree with Paley when it comes to copyright issues, but I do know how much I enjoyed her original and disarming film. Sita Sings the Blues is an autobiographical story of an American animator whose husband moves to India for work, then eventually sends her a Dear Jane e-mail. Paley parallels her own experience with the ancient Indian saga known as the Ramayana, about a goddess named Sita who is separated from her Lord and husband. The story is narrated by three contemporary—and irreverent—Indian commentators, depicted onscreen as shadow puppets, who serve as our links from the present to the past. Virtually a one-woman show, Paley created the rich, stylish design of the picture and its clever, well-timed animation, along with a witty script. On the soundtrack the plight of Nina—and Sita—is chronicled through a series of wonderful pop tunes sung by 1920s vocalist Annette Hanshaw. By no rule of logic should all of this merge together so well, but it does, and that’s the magic of Sita Sings the Blues. It’s truly one-of-a-kind.

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