Sunday, September 28, 2008


TLA Releasing is presenting one of my FAVORITE features of the 2007 SF IndieFest, "Dante's Inferno" (dir. Sean Meredith, US, 2007, 77 mins.) This is a brilliantly conceived adaptation of Dante's "Inferno", set in the present time and using contemporary figures, settings and situations to illustrate the nine circles of hell. And when I say 'illustrate', I mean that most literally, as the story is performed by paper-and-stick puppets. The artwork is outstanding and the meticulous manipulation of the puppets is simply awesome. The script alone is too clever for words and would make as great of a live action feature as it does as a semi-animated/puppet piece. However, the expense involved to bring to life Sandow Birk's beautifully realized drawings and paintings of a contemporary hell, which have been brought to 'puppet life' by co-art designer, Elyse Pignolet,
would have been astronomical! Director and co-writer Sean Meredith ably adapted the art design and integrated the puppetry skills of Paul Zaloom into a unique cinematic experience. By using a centuries old puppet technique, the story of Dante's "Inferno" retains an antique mood, even if it is presented in extremely modern vernacular. Dermot Mulroney and James Cromwell provide the voices for Dante and Virgil. Also in the cast are Martha Plimpton and head puppeteer, Paul Zaloom. The music score by Mark McAdam is outstanding, including a huge musical number at the 8th Circle of Hell, called "We Are The Lobbyists"!

TLA includes a number of extra features. "12 Days in the Underground" a 'making of' featurette, which is fairly fascinating and could be considered a short-hand version of the conent of the screen-specific commentary by Director Sean Meredith, art driector Sandow Birk and head puppeteer Paul Zaloom. This commentary, combined with the production stills gallery, and the featurette, contribute to one of the most thorough and entertaining analysis of a feature's production that I've seen amongst MANY 'making of/special edition/etc.' dvds! There is a second commentary featuring puppet theatre historian John Bell and Dante Alighieri scholar Peter Hawkins, which is an exceptionally eductional, if not professorial analysis of the visual and textual elements of the film. It is an exceptional way to introduce Dante's INFERNO to a literature class, though due to the explicit visual content, the film would not be suitable for high school, but is more suitable for college curriculum. However, it may be a bit too academic for the casual viewer.

The disc also includes the Mark McAdam's film score in MP3 files, accessible by CD-ROM!! THIS is an all too rare feature!! In other words, it is as if you have purchased the film AND the soundtrack CD in one package! I do not know why TLA has not publicized this feature more. There is also the theatrical trailer (which does NOT do the film justice!), and several trailers of other TLA Releasing products.

Overall, I LOVE the film and am thrilled by the tasteful and excellent behind-the-scenes packaging the producers have given it! It is available at TLA for $16.99.

Maxxxxx says
re DANTE'S INFERNO: Whoooooooo!

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