16-year-old Christina Ricci plays the not-so-innocent LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD in an exciting and twisted take on the childrens story. Narrated by Quentin Crisp, the film is both provocative and eerie, combining childhood fiction with mature fantasy. Other stories included in the collection are Kaplans rare award-winning films LITTLE SUCK-A-THUMB and THE FROG KING. Bonus features include audio commentaries by David Kaplan and folklore scholar Jack Zipes.
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to screen in over fifty international film festivals where it received several awards including the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Prix Panavision for Best U.S. Short Film at the Avignon Film Festival. After a successful theatrical run in cities across the country, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD was televised on The Sundance Channel as well as in Sweden, Spain, Brazil, Australia, and the U.K. The film is currently being used as an educational device in universities worldwide.
No American filmmaker has expressed the same degree of fascination with the adult themes of fairy tales as David Kaplan. But he deserves the niche. It begs noting that Kaplan staked his claim in this field long before completing his first feature, YEAR OF THE FISH, in 2007. That movie, a contemporary rotoscoped version of Cinderella set in New York's Chinatown, offers only one glimpse of Kaplan's revisionist oeuvre. His landmark short, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD recently hit DVD with insightful commentary from the director and a glimpse at his other morbid fables. Starring a 16-year-old Christina Ricci, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD tackles the standard girl-grandma-wolf plot with gloriously evocative black-and-white photography and a provocative infusion of sexual deviance. More akin to Jean Cocteau's haunting BEAUTY AND THE BEAST than any Disney variation, Kaplan's treatment of the story toys with the artistic language of silent cinema, particularly German Expressionism. Ricci's seductive gaze puts the depraved wolf (Timour Bourtasenkov) in his place, but not before he forces her through a viscerally unnerving coming-of-age experience in which she unknowingly eats the flesh of her dead grandmother. Quentin Crisp narrates with the eerie rasp of Vincent Price, while Kaplan's decision to sample Claude Debussy's L'apres-midi d'un faun
on the soundtrack provides the aura of something ancient and wonderful, despite the subversiveness. The other shorts and special features help create a fuller understanding of Kaplan's obsession with the fairy tale universe. LITTLE SUCK-A-THUMB, a Cronenbergian account of youth castration fears in explicit detail, was made as a color-synch project during Kaplan's film school years (Clean, Shaven
director Lodge Kerrigan worked as an assistant director). Perhaps by accident of design - if we're to believe Kaplan's humble director's commentary - the 10-minute piece comes close to the masterpiece level of LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD. The other short, titled THE FROG KING, is 'an interesting failure,' by Kaplan's own admission. In its newly reedited form, however, the movie does make a neat prelude to the other films. On separate commentary tracks, folklore scholar Jack Zipes helps flesh ouot the meanings behind Kaplan's craft, while the director's own observations lead to the enticing perception of his mentality as Tim Burton by way of semiotic film theory. Kaplan reveals that his Hansel and Gretel screenplay remains unproduced; this new collection should help explain why it deserves a better fate. --Eric Kohn, The New York Press.
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. The most widely celebrated of the shorts, Little Red Riding Hood (1997) features the perfectly cast 16-year-old Christina Ricci as that story s infamous hero. Yet this time, Kaplan turns his version into a metaphor for budding sexuality, making the wolf not a typically frightening animal, but a sexy, muscular male dancer who lurches and writhes in the woods and who takes in Little Red Riding Hood s sensual striptease with wide, hungry eyes. In Kaplan s version, Little Red Riding Hood is just beginning to understand the power she has to influence men/predators with her sexuality, and she gets frisky with this. Without giving anything away, Kaplan revamps the film s ending to more poetically explore this theme. Adding immeasurable playfulness is the hilarious narration by Quentin Crisp. Combine that with an atmospheric presentation that recalls both the sets of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the mood of Night of the Hunter, and you have a modern short film classic. Of the remaining two films, Little Suck-a-Thumb is the other standout (while The Frog King is good, it nonetheless feels like a rehearsal for the main event that would be LRRH). Little Suck-a-Thumb tells the story of a boy who is warned by his mother not to suck his thumbs at night or a creepy man will sneak into his room and snip his thumbs off. Here, Kaplan ups the black humor ante, yet the music and performances and set design maintain a thoroughly creepy tone. In many ways, the overall impact is similar to Mary Hestan s He Was Once, yet Kaplan owes a more direct stylistic debt to German Expressionism. It s a genuinely unsettling blend of humor and horror. One could imagine a child watching this and becoming scarred for life. It s scarring enough watching it as an adult. --Michael Tully, Hammer to Nail.
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. Inspired by two books on the subject: Jack Zipes,The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood and Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre Kaplan's film takes it's story from the original folklore and not directly from what most would consider the definitive version of the fairy tale, that is, Charles Perrault's 1697 tale Le Petit Chaperon Rouge. The film features Ricci as Red Riding Hood on her way to Grandmother's house, when she encounters the wolf (played by Russian ballet dancer Timour Bourtasenkov). After telling the wolf of her plans, the wolf too makes his way to the woodland home and murders the Grandmother. From that point, the film spins off the axis that most people will remember from their youth - addressing instead some of the original tale's more obscure elements, specifically cannibalization and the notion that Red Riding Hood uses the need to relieve her bowels as the catalyst for escaping the wolf's clutches. Little Red Riding Hood is, like so many other sagas, a cautionary tale. However, in adaptations as broad as 1984's The Company of Wolves, 1996's Freeway and the recent film Hard Candy, the cinema has explored the inherent sexual undertones that exist in the story. Kaplan puts those undertones front and center in his film, making the viewer almost a voyeuristic intruder behind the doors of Granny's house - and the film exploits that unease in slow takes of the wolf's clawed fingers tracing Ricci's cherubic face. The film also plays loose with the dialogue, which is narrated by the late Quentin Crisp (Orlando), giving viewers familiar with Crisp's legacy a clear idea of what the Director had in mind with this short. The film debuted at the Sundance Film festival in January 1997 before completing a hugely successful festival run. But, before now, it's general release on video has been non-existent. The DVD arrives along with two additional shorts by Kaplan which also feature the filmmakers obsession with grim fairy tales. The first supplimentary short is 1992's Little Suck-a-Thumb about a man-child (Cork Hubbert, Legend) who is told if he does not stop sucking his thumbs 'The Tailor' will visit and cut them off. The second is a 1994 black and white production titled The Frog King - about a little girl (Eden Riegel, Year One) who promises a frog that he can come home with her if he retrieves the doll she has dropped down a well. The Frog King, like Little Red Riding Hood also toys in its final moments with the somewhat disturbing sexual nature of seemingly innocuous fairy tales. Kaplan left the world of short films behind in 2007 to helm his first feature Year of the Fish a rotoscope-animation version of Cinderella and he's currently in production on 7 to the Palace. But, despite moving onto the world of feature films, his legacy may always remain the twistedly beautiful nightmare that is Little Red Riding Hood. --Ted Massacre, Bloody Disgusting Horror.