Blood Tea and Red String (2006)
Directed by Christiane Cegavske

Artistic & Entertainment Value: * * * * ½

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A group of aristocratic white mice commission the Creatures Who Dwell Under the Oak to make a woman-shaped doll for them. The latter do so, but they are so pleased with their creation that they return the mice's money and keep it for themselves. The mice subsequently return at night and steal the doll, bringing it back to their home with them. The Oak Dwellers, upon discovering that the doll has been taken, set out on a quest to regain it.

Christiane Cegavske's Blood Tea and Red String, which is performed almost exclusively by puppets that have been brought to life by means of stop motion animation, is a genuinely captivating, frequently lovely work.

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The story the director tells is simple (and is related entirely without dialogue), but it is always so engaging that the viewer is likely to find himself completely wrapped up in the efforts of the Oak Dwellers to recover their doll. It is, moreover, greatly complemented by the various minor details Cegavske has included. Whether she is depicting the white mice brawling, the Oak Dwellers being rescued from a deadly trap by a frog, the heroes being treated by that creature to a dinner of roasted worms, the protagonists eating hallucinogenic fruit, their bartering some of this with a spider who has caught in her web a woman-headed bird born of the doll they had made, or something else, the director has absolutely packed her narrative with intriguing incidents.

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These events are made especially enjoyable to watch as a result of the puppets and sets Cegavske has used. Blood Tea and Red String is always impressive to look at. The director has created a marvelous fictional land of brightly lit fields, lovely but deadly gardens filled with apparently carnivorous plants, dark mansions surrounded with sunflowers the center of each of which is a grinning skull, and other fabulous places besides these. Happily, the denizens of this world are as enchanting to look at as it is itself. The white mice, with their wide ruffs, red coats, and bulging red eyes, are oddly sickly and villainous. The Oak Dwellers are appealing and strange, each having a humanlike body, a furred head, a crow's beak, and pointed pink ears. The various beings these characters encounter are likewise well realized, from the robed frog, to the spider with a woman's head, to the turtle who pulls the mice's carriage. There is hardly a moment during the whole of the movie's duration during which the viewer will not be fascinated by the images being presented to him.

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Blood Tea and Red String really is a delight. It is a lovely, enthralling fairy tale.

Review by Keith Allen

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