Tuesday, March 9

Film Review: "Rabbit['s] Moon"

Rabbit Moon, or Rabbit's Moon is a film made by the remarkably talented, Kenneth Anger. It was originally filmed in 1950, with music added in 1971 to make the first version, and eventually was re-edited in 1979.
The first version is just under half an hour, and the second edit under ten minutes, with slight differences such as portrayal of the moon, music and the rhythm of the character's movements.

First of all, I found the film to be aesthetically absolutely enchanting. Even in the opening, the font of the credits suggest a search into cinema's past and a reconnection with silent film with quivering titles and dramatic font. Perhaps this is presumptuous of me, but I feel it fits in with the rest of the film.
It is filmed in black and white, tinted blue, giving an immediate other-worldly feel. The costumes and make-up are spectacularly theatrical. The set, is a work of art; dreamy trees around soft a snug-looking clearing in the made trees, the tangible craft of the creation not hidden from us.

The main character is Pierrot ("The Fool"), the stock mime character whose image will be familiar to many, even without knowledge of its origins the in the commedia dell'arte and in mime, perhaps from the painting "Gilles" by Watteau:

or perhaps because of its general iconic nature.
Pierrot is well-portrayed as naive and pitiable fool, who pursues without understanding both the moon and Columbina. He is easily wounded, frightened by the Harlequin and distraught again by Columbina.

I found the Harlequin character to be suitably charismatic and roguish, acting as a kind of rake-hero in the film; charming, attractive to the opposite sex, and playful at the expense of others.

THE 1950 / '71 VERSION:
Exotic female singing accompanies the opening titles , but brilliantly Anger subverts the expectation of the viewer by playing The Capris' "There's a Moon Out Tonight", a Doo-Wop song. The rest of the soundtrack is in a similar vein, including:
"Oh, What a Night" - The Dells
"Bye Bye Baby" - Mary Wells
"I Only Have Eyes for You" - The Flamingos
"Tears On My Pillow" - The El Dorados

All of which have quickly become personal favorites of mine.

One possible fallback of this version of Rabbit's Moon is that the shots of the moon in question will appear quite comical to a contemporary audience; using three pictures of the moon, shown in succession to give the impression of Pierrot's longing to obtain the moon, or simply a zoom into it. This is repeated through the film. Though it can't be argued that this is realistic, I cannot say that I believe this is ineffective or comical. Realism, in any case, is not something one might be concerned with after deciding to direct a film in the style of Kabuki theatre and mime. Certainly, I do personally find this poor moon has its own kind of charm akin to that of the landing scene in La Voyage Sur La Lune, but I also feel that something is lost in the re-edited version with its shot of the real-life moon. Firstly; the lack of zoom motion causes loss of clarity, and Pierrot's jumping and reaching could be seen as something disconnected from these shots of the moon. (Possibly!) Or if not, I still believe that emphasis or empathy is lost without seeing Pierrot come somewhat closer to the moon and falling back, a bitter subject to gravity.

Five stars for the '71 version!


The relatively slight differences made in this version are few, including new music (one song, "It Came in The Night" by A Raincoat, which is repeated once), a great shortening in length (due to synchronizing the movements of the actors up with the music), and the Rabbit's Moon being being not represented by a man-made illustration, but being replaced by a shot of the actual moon.
Though the syncing up of the movement to the music is effectively charming, I feel as though it is too obvious or cheaply so. The element of subverting expectations the music had in the '71 version loses power, giving way to simply doubting the musical choice.
Another qualm I have with this version, is that there's simply less to look at, it being shorter. I'm not going to deny that this is gluttonous of me; as I simply want to look at it for longer, I found it to be so visually engaging.

Four stars for the '79

I'm including the youtube video of the second version of Rabbit's Moon, but unfortunately I couldn't find a good version of the first one. (There is one there but the quality is bad) Hopefully however you will enjoy this one a lot, and if you don't get a chance to see the longer version, I highly recommend you check out the music from it. (Particularly "I Only Have Eyes For You" by The Flamingos).

Also for you enthusiasts of new and unusual kinds of music, I would like to share two new musical finds (genre-wise) which have resulted from my love of this film (Anger using fragements from both genres between songs)

Gamelan Music:


Yours to some extent,

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