It took Christiane Cegavske more than a decade to complete
work on her first feature film, the stop-motion animated fairy tale
BLOOD TEA AND RED STRING. The film is silent and runs just over
one hour, but it is filled with striking images. Dennis Harvey writing
VARIETY referred to the film as "a David Lynchean fever dream on
Beatrix Potter terrain."

      The film is book-ended by a live-action figure, a Kabuki-faced
woman with jet black hair identified as Little Miss Crow in the credits.
As the movie opens, she presents a cake with the title spelled out in
red lettering. Once she cuts into the cake, though, beetles emerge
from the center. It's merely a warm-up for some of the more disturbing
images to come.

BLOOD TEA AND RED STRING kicks into gear when the three
white mice with ruby eyes and wearing coachmen costumes from the
Victorian era arrive at the home of the Creatures Who Dwell Under the
Oak, fox-like beings with bat ears and crow's beaks. The mice hire
the Oak Dwellers to create a female figure for them (who happens
to bear more than a passing resemblance to Little Miss Crow). After
the Oak Dwellers have made the doll-like being, the leader has
second thoughts and refuses to sell the figuring to the mice. No
amount of gold will induce him to part with her. The Oak Dwellers
sew an egg into her and hang her in a cruciform manner over their
doorway. The unhappy mice arrive under cover of darkness and spirit
the creation off to their home. Three of the four Oak Dwellers set off
in pursuit.

      There's a quest to locate the mice home, a spider who spins
red webbing and has the head of a prim Victorian maiden, a frog
who rescues the Oak Dwellers from a detour to a magical castle,
the blood tea that the mice imbibe to drunkenness while playing
cards, the doll's egg that hatches into a bluebird with a human
head, and many other strange sights. The only way to really enjoy
the film is to let go and let it wash over you. Cegavske has created
some amazing images and the stop-motion animation is detailed and               

      If you end up watching the film on DVD, I would recommend
NOT listening to the commentary track with Cegavske and critic
Luke Thompson. Thompson attempts to get the filmmaker to open
up but she either is unable or unwilling to do so and the result is
a banal discussion of the film.

Rating:                 B+
        MPAA Rating:        NONE
        Running time:        71 mins.

                         Viewed on DVD from
Blood Tea and Red String
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.