Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Little Prince: He’s in There Somewhere
The Little Prince is a prestigious publication
with a popular following. It was voted best book of the Twentieth Century in
France and reportedly continues to rack up two million copies in backlist sales
each year. Richard Burton won a Grammy for his LP recording of the novella and
Lerner & Lowe were nominated for Oscars for the odd 1974 live action
musical starring Bob Fosse. Netflix was clearly hoping for some serious awards
love for the new animated adaptation Paramount rather precipitously dropped.
Unfortunately, Mark Osbourne loses confidence in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s
beloved classic, preferring to focus on a contemporary framing narrative. After
the false start in March, Osbourne’s The
Little Prince (trailer here) is finally playing at the IFC Center in New York and
streaming on Netflix.
the poor state of government schools in their town, a little girl’s mother will
do anything to get her into the tony Werth Academy. Although presumably
private, it is still bound by bureaucratic regulations to accept students
within certain geographical boundaries. Her mother happens to find a small
house priced to sell, thanks to the eccentric next door neighbor: a retired
her mother’s wishes, the girl starts spending time with the grizzled old coot,
who slowly relates the tale of a mysterious little boy he met after crash
landing in the Sahara Desert. Unlike the bland CG animation telling the
wrap-around (but frankly primary) narrative, the actual story of the Little
Prince is told through evocative stop-motion animation that perfectly captures
the mystical archetypal nature of the tale. We see the Prince fight the baobab
trees threatening his home planetoid, Asteroid B-612 and watch him fall in love
with his Rose. Some of the characters are sacrificed to make room for the
little girl’s heavy-handed encounters, but the Prince’s meeting with the Fox is
still rather poignant.
Osbourne’s film takes a didactic turn when the Little Girl takes off in search
of the Prince. However, instead of finding the eternally noble little boy, she
discovers he is now the broken and humiliated Mr. Prince, working as a janitor
in a dystopian city of robber baron capitalism and dark satanic mills, clearly
modeled after Modern Times and Metropolis. That’s right, Osbourne turns The Little Prince into Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, but naturally he opts for a
treacly sentimental ending.
At the time, Paramount’s decision to dump such
an enduringly popular property like The
Little Prince seemed utterly perverse, but it turns out they knew what they
were doing. Osbourne’s adaptation is a massive disappointment, at least with
respects to his underwhelming, ideologically charged, excessively long present
day wrap-arounds and constant interruptions. The forty-five minutes or so of
genuine Saint- Exupéry are quite good. Maybe Netflix will eventually whittle it
down to novella length. In the meantime, the bloated self-sabotaging Little Prince is not recommended (unless
you care to stream it and fast forward to the good parts).
Labels: Animated films, Dystopian Cinema