Alice By Mike White. Alice (Jan Švankmeyer, 1988) I didn’t date much in College...

Alice (Jan Švankmeyer, 1988)

I didn’t date much in College. There was one night of sticky fumbling in the room acting as luggage storage facility in East Quad with Stephanie Vines on my last night of orientation. However, I can’t really count that as a “date” nor can I say that I was in college yet as the few-day sojourn to Ann Arbor occurred a month before classes started.

I saw Stephanie again during my first semester in a non-classroom setting when I went to visit her. It was a return to a much different East Quad-this one filled to the brim with “artists,” “philosophers” and general malcontents enrolled in the “Residential College”—a kind of ultra-arty clique. Stephanie fit right in, lemme tell ya. I think that lust had clouded my good senses for when I met Ms. Vines again she struck me as inherently weird. I never saw her outside of a classroom again.

As fate would have it, I did manage to have a night out with another gal I met during orientation, Heidi Eichman. It would be stretching the truth to its limits if I called our evening together a “date.” Rather, I asked Heidi to share my fun in an evening out at the movies. We went to the show together that single time and that was it. I got the hint to refrain from asking her to any more outings of that nature.

Ann Arbor used to have quite the film culture. I spent many a weekend evening moving from lecture hall to lecture hall in order to catch all of the films I wanted to see in a single night. Otherwise, I’d plunk myself down in an auditorium and prepare myself for a double or triple feature of obscure goodness. I feasted on films that I’d never heard about or had only heard the faintest mention of. Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!, Cleopatra Jones, In the Realm of the Senses, Saturday Night Fever, Tommy, Armour of God, and so many others made me a more accomplished filmgoer. How I rejoiced in the weekend of John Waters films—two triple features of Waters classics sponsored by Mrs. Fields cookies. That is, until representatives for Mrs. Fields realized who John Waters was and rescinded their funds. But, damn, if the audience didn’t get more than their fill of yummy cookies both nights!

Heidi had the dubious honor of being my companion to Jan Švankmeyer’s Alice. Inspired by ’s Alice in Wonderland, the Swiss film follows the same path down a rabbit hole (here a bureau drawer) into a “mystical land” that may lie inside of our protagonist’s pre-adolescent mind. Švankmeyer pits a live action Alice (Kristyna Kohoutova) against a bevy of stop-motion creatures, giving the film a marvelously hideous look while adding to the nightmarish quality of the story.

There’s nothing in Alice that can be considered “cute” and there are no light-hearted songs celebrating “unbirthdays” or any such rubbish. The white rabbit of Alice if fresh from a specimen case with its chest spilling sawdust at every turn. The rabbit only “speaks” through Alice’s narration; otherwise, it clicks its nasty teeth together in a rather menacing fashion before scurrying off. From there, things only get nastier with scads of horrifying skeletal concoctions, anthropomorphic meat, and tins of cockroaches. Švankmeyer shows the malice in Wonderland.

Alice moves at a slow but determined pace befitting the title character’s navigation of her strange surroundings. At times the narrative becomes frustrating, but that’s inherent to the material. I can see why Heidi never returned my calls after sitting through it.

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