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Alice Underground1984

  • 3.2
Kate Kline May's entrancing ALICE UNDERGROUND uses quick cut editing, dense sound design, terrific black and white 16mm film​ and infrared still photos to create a surrealistic interpretation that remains true to the spirit and plot of​ ​Lewis Carroll's original version of "Alice in Wonderland​." Drawing on the Bay Area's rich reserve of talented actors, the film has gotten lots of recognition in part for its effective and humorous character acting. ALICE UNDERGROUND has shown on KQED San Francisco, won the Bay Area Showcase top award from the San Francisco Film Festival, was included in a BBC series about Lewis Carroll, and has been featured in many American festivals.

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1 member likes this review

Kate Kline May’s anarchic adaptation of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” casts 1980’s San Francisco as a surrealistic space just as unpredictable—and full of possibility—as the one encountered in Lewis Carroll’s famous book for children. Shot on grainy black and white 16mm film and flaunting an infectiously inventive, DIY attitude, the film follows Alice as she stumbles through a series of vignettes riffing on scenes from the original book (the most wonderful being a rowdy croquet match presided over by Sigrid Wurschmidt as the Queen of Hearts, who seems to be at once channeling Joan Collins and the great silent film vamps). Dispensing with the gentle, kid-appropriate whimsy of the original material, May draws instead from the gritty aesthetics and sensibility of the “underground” film and performance art communities of the 1960’s and 1970’s for her evocation of a modern day wonderland; the improvisatory films of Warhol and Jack Smith often come to mind, as do the fantastical dimensions of the everyday as glimpsed in the work of Jacques Rivette. But it’s the spirit and artistic vision of Maya Deren that seems to hover most dominantly over the proceedings—there are moments, particularly during clever spatial dislocation, where the film almost feels like a reimagining of the classic “At Land.” An undersung Bay Area gem that deserves to be more widely seen.

Member Reviews (2)

Kate Kline May’s anarchic adaptation of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” casts 1980’s San Francisco as a surrealistic space just as unpredictable—and full of possibility—as the one encountered in Lewis Carroll’s famous book for children. Shot on grainy black and white 16mm film and flaunting an infectiously inventive, DIY attitude, the film follows Alice as she stumbles through a series of vignettes riffing on scenes from the original book (the most wonderful being a rowdy croquet match presided over by Sigrid Wurschmidt as the Queen of Hearts, who seems to be at once channeling Joan Collins and the great silent film vamps). Dispensing with the gentle, kid-appropriate whimsy of the original material, May draws instead from the gritty aesthetics and sensibility of the “underground” film and performance art communities of the 1960’s and 1970’s for her evocation of a modern day wonderland; the improvisatory films of Warhol and Jack Smith often come to mind, as do the fantastical dimensions of the everyday as glimpsed in the work of Jacques Rivette. But it’s the spirit and artistic vision of Maya Deren that seems to hover most dominantly over the proceedings—there are moments, particularly during clever spatial dislocation, where the film almost feels like a reimagining of the classic “At Land.” An undersung Bay Area gem that deserves to be more widely seen.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Interesting adaptation of the original... a bit hard to follow some of the dialogue. Horrid acting, but the cinematography itself is good.