Something grimm is coming to FACT in Liverpool this winter, as the city centre art cinema launches The Enchanted Screen: A programme of fairytale and folklore films, featuring over twenty different titles.
Fairy tales have long been a staple of cinema, with the stories of the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and their ilk being mined for filmic inspiration as far back as the 1890s. These simple, universally-understood stories helped the new artform announce itself, establishing its narrative boundaries and securing its place as the great storytelling medium of the 20th Century. Although FACT’s programme unfortunately doesn’t stretch back to the Victorian era – very little film footage from this period survives to this day – it does give an excellent overview of how far we’ve come since.
One of the highlights of the season is the Powell and Pressburger 1948 classic The Red Shoes, The film is both based on the Hans Christian Anderson story of the same name, and is also a reflexive comment on the story: In the film version, a ballerina is cast in a show based on the fairytale, but succumbs to the same fate as the story’s heroine and is forced to dance to her death. The Red Shoes was shot at Pinewood Studios for the iconic British film company the Rank Organisation – best-known for its vanity card with a muscleman hitting a gong – and holds the unlikely honour of being Martin Scorsese’s favourite film. The Goodfellas director even had a hand in the 2009 remaster, which breathes new life into the vivid technicolor that would go on to inspire the colour palette of many of his own films. You can catch it at FACT on Sunday 12th November.
Aptly, given these stories’ origins as European fables, there’s a number of continental films on during the season. On Sunday 19th November, you can see La Belle et la Bête, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of the Beauty and the Beast tale, which was a big influence on the Disney version. Also screening during the season is the less well-known The Singing Ringing Tree, a 1957 East German adaptation of a Grimm story that’s previously only ever been screened in black and white as a televised BBC special. Here it can be enjoyed in full colour, as never seen before on screens outside the GDR, on Sunday 17th December.
Of course, no retrospective of fairy tale on film would be complete without at least one entry from the House of Mouse. Disney’s Snow White and the Dwarfs broke new ground in 1937 when it claimed the title of being the first feature-length cel animation, kicking off the studio’s storied tradition of fairytale adaptations. As well as their first cel animation, you can also catch their last cel animation, 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, which ports the classic story to 1920s New Orleans, and boasts and excellent jazz soundtrack courtesy of Randy Newman. The first Disney landmark can be caught on Sunday 10th December, and Princess and the Frog gets two screenings on Saturday 2nd December and Sunday 3rd. However, if you’re looking for alternative animation, you can also catch The Tale of Princess Kaguya from Japan’s Studio Ghibli on Sunday 26th November.
Lastly, FACT are also screening some more postmodern takes on the fairytale. On Monday 11th December, you can see Tim Burton’s 1990 film Edward Scissorhands. The film built on the reputation Burton had carved out with earlier genre works like Beetlejuice and Batman, borrowing liberally from stories like Pinocchio and Beauty and the Beast, and couching them in a 50s B-Movie setting. Rounding off the season is perhaps the most postmodern of all fairytales: Shrek. Adapted from a slim 32-page children’s book, Shrek is a multi-tiered parody of the whole fairytale genre, and is one of the most commercially-successful animated films ever made. You can see it at FACT on Saturday 9th December and Sunday 10th.