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In Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the grandfather of fantastic cinema, Georges Méliès declares, “Fairytales can only happen in movies.” Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Cinémathèque programming team has taken the sentiment to heart for its first major film retrospective of 2014, Fairytales and Fables.

Méliès features extensively in the schedule of international fantasy cinema that will delight and disturb audiences over its three month run. Silent classics of his including A Trip to the Moon (1902), The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903), The Magic Lantern (1903), An Impossible Voyage (1904), The Palace of Arabian Nights (1905) and Baron Munchausen’s Dream (1911) will screen with live musical accompaniment, as will rarely-seen works from Ernst Lubitsch (The Doll, 1919; The Oyster Princess, 1919) and Herbert Brenon (Peter Pan, 1924). The centrepiece of the Fairytales and Fables season is Lotte Reiniger’s (pictured, right) 1926 work, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (featured, below), the oldest surviving animated feature, which will screen along with two strands of the legendary German filmmaker’s short films.

Curated by Amanda Slack-Smith from archival collections in New York, Los Angeles, Prague and our own National Film and Sound Archive, the GOMA season features much-loved titles from the genre (The Wizard of Oz; The 7th Voyage of Sinbad; The Neverending Story; Pan’s Labyrinth [pictured, top]; The Princess Bride; Babe) as well as works from the reigning king of movie fairytales, Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands; Sleepy Hollow; Big Fish; Corpse Bride). The dark psychological subtext often associated with classic children’s stories is explored in very non-family sessions of films such as George Cukor’s Gaslight; Dario Argento’s Suspiria; Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut; David Slade’s modern paedophile/revenge spin on Little Red Riding, Hard Candy, with Ellen Page (featured, below); and, Julia Leigh’s controversial sex-industry drama, Sleeping Beauty.

For the true film scholar, it will be the rarely seen international offerings that demand attention. Amongst them are Alice (1988) and Little Otik (2001), two surreal classics from Czech iconoclast Jan Švankmajer; Vaclav Vorlicek’s wonderfully entertaining adventure, Three Wishes for Cinderella (1973); and Jacques Demy’s The Pied Piper (1972), a dark, political allegory starring cult musical figure, Donovan. Ahead of the Lea Seydoux/Vincent Cassell blockbuster remake due for release in 2014, the 1946 Jean Cocteau classic Beauty and The Beast will screen from a newly remastered 35mm print.

After much consideration, SCREEN-SPACE offers our thoughts on the four global works from the Fairytale and Fables program that should not be missed… 

The PianoTuner of Earthquakes (Directed by The Quay Brothers; 2005)
This near-impenetrable artistic vision from critically divisive talents Stephen and Timothy Quay loosely adapts Jules Verne’s The Carpathian Castle into a visual and aural dreamscape about a kidnapped opera singer, the mad scientist who wants her voice for his automaton and the piano tuner who desires her. A maddening, mesmerising work; executive produced by Terry Gilliam.

The Juniper Tree (Dir: Nietzchka Keene; 1990)
From The Brothers Grimm stable of disassociated family themes comes debutant director Nietzchka Keene’s monochromatic story of two sisters forced to hit the road in Middle Ages Iceland after their mother is put to death for witchcraft. A giddy romp it is not, but elements such as the stark personal drama central to the narrative, sombre supernatural overtones and a charismatic turn as Margit from pop princess Bjork (pictured, left) in her film debut makes this idiosyncratic relic from a truly experimental phase in indie world cinema a compelling oddity.

Valery and Her Week of Wonders (Dir: Jaromil Jires; 1970)
Melding counter-culture experimentalism with a traditional Euro-cinema aesthetic, Czech New-Wave pioneer Jaromil Jires’ reworking of Alice in Wonderland/Little Red Riding Hood is a tour-de-force cinematic journey into young female sexuality, guilt-laden religious influence and social repression. And jewellery and incest and weasels and vampires…. Only 13 at time of filming, Jaroslava Schallerova (pictured, right) is an incandescent presence as Valery in one of the great debut performances.

Cinderella (Dir: Man-dae Hong, 2006).
A mixed critical reaction greeted Man-dae Hong’s South Korean horror film when first released, but its darkly-comic, stylishly-gory take on the plastic surgery phenomenon has grown in stature. It is one of the Cinematheque’s more daring choices and squeamish types may want to favour the other K-horror entrant, Pil-sung Kim’s moody, chilling Hansel and Gretel (though it comes with its own set of disturbing images, it must be said…).

Fairytales and Fables runs from January 10 to March 30 at the Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery of Modern Art Cinematheque. Further details are available at the GOMA website.

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