In Title Matchup we pit two films with the exact same title against each other to see which comes out on top. Today’s versus match is between Woody Allen’s Alice (1990) and Jan Švankmajer’s Alice (1989).
Mia Farrow stars as the eponymous heroine in Alice, Woody Allen’s whimsical comedy about a Manhattan socialite wife, who finds herself neurotically attracted to a handsome saxophone player. When her catholic guilt manifests itself in the form of a backache, the mousey Alice is advised to consult the mysterious Dr. Yang, where she is given a selection of mystical herbs with life altering consequences. With Allen’s usual sharp wit and touches of magical realism, Alice is a sometimes amusing, sometimes annoying feature that lacks the nuance and humour of the director’s finest work, but is bolstered by a charming performance from Farrow as the title character. It is a quirky, harmless picture, but ultimately forgettable.
Jan Švankmajer takes Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and gives it a surreal macabre twist in his 1988 Czechoslovakian film, Alice. As per usual with Švankmajer, the film imaginatively combines live action performances with his signature stop-motion animation, and the result is visually spectacular, wonderfully mesmerising and undoubtedly creepy. It also features a captivating child performance from Kristýna Kohoutová, who not just plays the eponymous Alice, but also acts as a kind of narrator, voicing the puppets as if she was reading from the storybook. Of all the adaptations of this classic children’s novel, this would have to be the definitive one to see.
While Allen’s Alice isn’t without charm, Švankmajer’s Alice is a beautifully crafted film with some of the most spectacular animation I have ever seen. The winner is clear.
The Winner: Alice (1988)