Hammer to Nail reviews “Little Red”

“Cinematic Fairy Tales”
By MICHAEL TULLY, Hammer to Nail
Published: June 16, 2009

Before becoming a feature film director with Year of the Fish, David Kaplan made a name for himself in the mid-1990s with a series of memorable short films that revitalized the fairy tale genre. Combining elements of German Expressionism with modern dance/theater, Kaplan produced beautifully haunting worlds that lingered beyond his films’ relatively short running times (twelve minutes being the longest). Just over a decade later, these works are finally available on home video for the world to appreciate. While Little Red Riding Hood is the undeniable standout, the others—Little-Suck-a-Thumb and The Frog King—are worthwhile efforts that prove Little Red Riding Hood was no fluke.

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Bloody Disgusting Horror reviews “Little Red”

“Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories”
By TED MASSACRE, Bloody Disgusting Horror
Published: June 16, 2009

Underground filmmaker David Kaplan met 16-year old star Christina Ricci at the Sundance Institute’s Directors Workshop in 1996. The pair hit it off and Kaplan enlisted the actress to star in his most famous and provocative work. An adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood.

Little Red Riding Hood as seen through the eyes of David Kaplan is a lyrical art-piece. Almost a direct descendant of Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bête drug through the Lower East Side transgressive stylings of New York’s underground film scene. The gorgeous black and white photography and the expressionistic set design, make for a truly stunning and surrealistic short film.

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Filmmaker Magazine reviews “Little Red”

“Little Red Riding Hood”
By JASON GUERRASIO, Filmmaker Magazine
Published: June 15, 2009

If you’re not familiar with David Kaplan’s work this is a good CliffsNotes on his talents, which caught our eye back in 1999 when we made him one of our 25 New Faces of Independent Film.

With the main focus put on his 1997 Sundance short, Little Red Riding Hood, a black and white-shot adaptation of The Story of Grandmother folk tale, the disc also includes two other shorts, Little Suck-a-Thumb (1992) and The Frog King (1994). Kaplan’s Riding Hood telling is a mix between Tim Burton and Guy Maddin with a little toilet humor sprinkled in with narration voiced by Quentin Crisp and stars a then 16-year-old Christina Ricci as a not-so-innocent Red. Along with being a calling card of Kaplan’s love for fairytales and his original cinematic eye, the film has turned into a cult classic, even being used as part of the curriculum at Harvard, Oxford and Columbia.

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“Little Red Riding Hood” Press Blurbs

“Sinister fun…. Absolutely gorgeous film… woozy, Murnauesque sets, narration from Quentin Crisp, and, above all, the preternaturally expressive visage of Christina Ricci as an all-too-knowing Red.” – Hazal-Dawn Dumpert, L.A. Weekly.

“In an evening of explorations of Little Red Riding Hood, the most notable is a 1997 short film starring Christina Ricci, narrated by the late, great eccentric Quentin Crisp.” – Choire Sicha, The New York Times.

“The film is beautifully shot and shows great visual acuity… a job well-done.” – Roger Corman.

“A sly, disturbing, variation on the classic fairy tale, with Christina Ricci as an unsettlingly erotic Riding Hood and Quentin Crisp delivering a droll narration… it’s as unsettling as it is artful.” – Shawn Levy, The Oregonian.

“Gorgeous cinematography and art direction…. The centerpiece here is David Kaplan’s Little Red Riding Hood, a gothic and chilling rendition of the classic tale….” – Peg Aloi, The Boston Phoenix.

“Outstandingly sexy short film… expertly directed.” – Leslie Weishaar, Indiewire.

“A wonderful cinematic rendition of Le Conte de la Mére-Grande… great things with black and white, voice, dance, music, and decor… Brilliant.” – Jack Zipes, author, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood.

“A stylish, scary film for grown-ups, Kaplan’s Little Red Riding Hood gets right to work on viewers’ psyches…” – Heather Wisner, San Francisco Weekly.

“David Kaplan’s short retells the old fairy tale in explicitly sexual terms.  It’s a creepy little piece of work….” – Andy Klein, New Times Los Angeles.

“Expressionistic, perverse… a very self-assertive Christina Ricci in the title role and a collection of sets that appear to be left over from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” – John Hartl, The Seattle Times.

“The most visually striking film of the festival.  Luscious black-and-white cinematography enfolds this perverse retelling of the classic fairy tale.  Quentin Crisp narrates lines like ‘A slut is she who eats the flesh of her granny’ with queenly relish, while a voluptuous Christina Ricci digs into a bowl of granny guts.” – Steve Striegel, The Seattle Stranger.

“Don’t miss this one.  Christina Ricci stars in this silent film that seems to pull influences from all over high modernism – the dancing wolf is Nijinsky, Grandmother’s house is out of The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, Red Riding Hood is Lolita… chillingly beautiful.” – Claire Dederer, Seattle Weekly.

“A clever, wicked live-action short….” – Derich Mantonela, Seattle Gay News.

“Very stylish.  Striking.  Unsettling, creepy.  It’s clearly a remarkable film and many would find fascinating and few would soon forget.” – Bo Smith, curator, Boston Museum of Fine Art.

“Parmi les plus belles suprises, figure Little Red Riding Hood de l’Americain David Kaplan, une merveilleuse et surréaliste adaptation du Petit Chaperon Rouge….” – Laure Bernard, Le Figaro.

New York Post reviews “Year of the Fish”

By V.A. MUSETTO, The New York Post
Published: August 29, 2008

Rating: ★★★☆

THE age-old fairy tale of Cinderella is updated to New York’s modern-day Chinatown in “Year of the Fish.”

It was shot on inexpensive live-action video, which was digitally painted in post-production. The result is an unusual, and pleasing, painterly look. (Richard Linklater used a similar process in “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly.”)

Teenage Ye Xian (An Nguyen) travels to Chinatown to work in a beauty salon to make money to send back home to her ailing father. Ye Xian quickly discovers that the salon is actually a massage parlor, where “a happy ending” is guaranteed to each male customer.

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NY Times Metro Section: “Year of the Fish”

“Live, From New York, It’s (an Animated) Chinatown!”
By Jennifer 8. Lee, The New York Times
Published: August 27, 2008


A realistic portrayal of New York City’s Chinatown can be seen in a new animated movie, “The Year of The Fish.”

The independent film, which opens on Friday at the Angelika Film Center, is an adaptation of a Cinderella-like Chinese fable by David Kaplan. The film was shot in live-action, then adapted with rotoscope animation. That process creates realistic scenes of Chinatown — from the lion dance in the Chinese New Year’s parade to senior citizens performing tai chi in Columbus Park to the neighborhood’s open air markets. The shots of the corners, nooks and crannies throughout Chinatown are instantly recognizable to New Yorkers.

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Seattle Post-Intelligencer on “Fish”

“’Year of the Fish:’ This Cinderella story is not for children”
By BILL WHITE, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Published: September 25, 2008

Not every Cinderella story set in Manhattan is “Enchanted.”

“Year of the Fish,” so named because it is narrated by a fish, is an animated fairy tale that will appeal more to fans of Ralph Bakshi (“Heavy Traffic”) and Aron Gauder (“The District”) than the Walt Disney crowd.

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NPR reviews “Year of the Fish”

“’Year Of The Fish': A Cinderella Story, In Chinatown”
by Bob Mondello, National Public Radio
Published: August 29, 2008


The back story is unconventional, as is the narrator, but that doesn’t make Ye Xian any less recognizable as a modern-day Cinderella.

As her goldfish (yup, her goldfish) tells it in Year of the Fish, our pretty young Chinese heroine has arrived in the U.S. not realizing she’s been delivered into indentured servitude. Stern massage-parlor proprietress Madame Su (Tsai Chin) holds both Ye Xian’s passport and a contract that says she’ll work off her passage.

When Ye Xian (An Nguyen) balks at giving massages to men who are clearly interested in having her do more than rub their backs, she’s forced to work as the joint’s servant — scrubbing floors, doing laundry, serving Madame and the wicked step-masseuses — and left to wonder whether someday her prince might come.

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Hammer to Nail reviews “Year of the Fish”

“YEAR OF THE FISH – Cinderella in Chinatown”
by Michael Tully, Hammer to Nail
Published: August 29, 2008

For his debut feature, writer/director David Kaplan created a hefty stack of obstacles for himself. One: he chose to update one of the most familiar and oft-told fairytales in the canon (in fact, he went back to 9th Century China for the oldest version known). Two: he shot his work of magical fantasy on the unmagically realistic medium of digital video. Three: he manipulated his footage by rotoscoping it, turning his low-budget DV drama into a full-blown animated feature. It takes a special individual to not let these ingredients become an overcooked, inedible concoction, but somehow, Kaplan pulls it off. Year of the Fish is that rare low-budget film that casts a genuinely magical spell.

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