"Valerie and her Week of Wonders" is a Wondrous Experience


Valerie and her Week of Wonders is a coming of age film like no other.  This Czechoslovakian film from 1970 is a little know cult classic that was recently restored and released by The Criterion Collection.  Its a strange and surreal fairy tale that will keep your eyes glues to the screen for the entire 73 minutes.  The film is more of a painting or an experience rather than a traditional narrative story.  Rich with metaphor and symbolism its an art house film with a capital A.

Valerie is a young girl of about 13 or so whose transition into womanhood is a scary and dangerous proposition.  Her parents are dead and she lives with her grandmother, who may or may not be a vampire or a witch.  Valerie is friends with a local boy, Eaglet, whose father may or may not be a vampire or even the devil.  He is also known as the polecat, a weasel of a man who is always up to no good.  Throw in a sleazy lecherous priest and Valerie must defend her mind and body for what awaits her in adulthood.  Her bedroom, however, is a gleaming white sanctuary for which she is free and safe from the outside world.  While Valerie's grandmother fears of growing old she makes a deal with the polecat for everlasting youth, Valerie yearns for love, safety, and security.  She hopes this will come from Eaglet and a magic pair of pearl earrings.

Her journeys are like hallucinations charged with either sex or violence.  She sees a group's maidens bathing in the river, as well as men whipping themselves.  When the priest seemingly returns from the dead, Valerie is taken and burned at the stake

The imagery and cinematography of the film are simply amazing. The image of a bloodstained daisy makes for the perfect cover art for the Criterion release.  The film takes on many fairy tales but would most resemble "Alice in Wonderland".  Its a truly unique vision for this girls very strange week of wonders.

Play "Hide and Seek" with Fanning and De Niro


You could say 2005 was a pretty good year for up and coming actress Dakota Fanning as she starred opposite Tom Cruise in the Summer blockbuster "War of the Worlds" directed by Stephen Spielberg.  Earlier in the year, she was front and center in the psychological thriller "Hide and Seek" co-starring Robert De Niro.  Here she plays yet another precocious little smarty pants dealing with the suicide death of her mother.

After his wife's death, David decides it would be best for him and his daughter Emily to move out of the city and into a quiet country estate to deal with things.  David is a psychologist who despite the advice of his colleague Katherine, played by Famke Janssen, thinks it is in the best interest of his daughter.  Katherine has been treating Emily and now more than ever feels she needs a strong motherly influence and someone other than her father to talk to.  Never the less they arrive at their new digs, a big Summerhouse in the middle of Fall. They are greeted by the town sheriff Dylan Baker, who will most likely die a horrible death since cops never fair well in scary movies.  They settle in for what will hopefully be a new beginning, but that would make for a pretty boring movie, wouldn't it?

The quiet and introspective Emily investigates the grounds and finds an ominous wooded area with a cave, just before being called to dinner.  Emily's relationship with her father is a rather typical one except for the fact that he could easily be her grandfather.  How many men in their sixties have kids under ten?  She is kind of a mystery to him.  He knows a few things like her favorite foods and her doll's name but together they're a bit awkward, which does help with the suspense and tone of the film.  When Emily starts acting out she blames everything on her imaginary friend named Charlie.  David struggles to control his daughter while also trying to grieve for his wife.  Her suicide was a complete shock to him and the unanswered questions keep piling up. 

David does find some friends in the form of a single mother named Elizabeth (Elisabeth Shue) who he meets at the park.  She is invited to dinner and they have their "Taste the Sauce" moment, but Emily is not as inviting as she throws a hateful bitch fit at the table.  As Emily continues to act out in more extreme ways (poor kitty never had a chance) David is overwhelmed as what he should do next.  Up to this point in the story, everything has been done to make you believe this is an evil kid movie and Emily is obviously disturbed.  But wait for a divisive third act twist in the vane of "Cape Fear" with the exact same actor none the less.  We learn more about Charlie and a different view of all of the crazy things that have been happening.  Although this movie is filled with numerous genre clich├ęs and twists it is an entertaining watch if nothing else. 

Even though Dakota Fanning was only about 10 or 11 when this was made she looks to be an adult playing a kid which also adds to the creepiness factor as she is the only actor that can pull this off. The movie is what it is and I would still recommend seeing it.

P.S. The sheriff does die a horrible death.