The back-story alone is the kind of thing you could make a movie out of: A syndicated cartoonist and animator, inspired by the end of her marriage, spends five years single-handedly creating an animated feature on her home computer, battling for music rights. But amazingly, that story isn’t half as fascinating as what ended up in her movie.
Sita Sings the Blues defies categorization. At times, it’s a squiggly hand-drawn tale based on Paley’s own relationship; at times, it relates the Hindu legend of The Ramayana, as told by an often-disagreeing trio of scholars. And at times, it illustrates that story of the tragic relationship between Sita and Rama through vintage jazz recordings featuring vocalist Annette Hanshaw.
These disparate elements shouldn’t work together in the same universe, let alone in the same movie. But Sita Sings the Blues is a remarkably cohesive, visionary achievement: gorgeous to behold as a piece of animated art, wildly entertaining as a melancholy musical journey through an ancient story, fascinating as an exploration of how mythology serves us best through the lessons a story teaches us rather than through the specific details.
There’s nothing to demand that you trek to the Park City Library for this weekend’s screenings; Paley has made the film openly available on the film’s Website. Yet there’s something appropriate about sharing this movie—so steeped in the primal stories we all share—with an audience.
Sita Sings the Blues @ Park City Film Series, 1255 Park Ave., Park City, 435-615- 8291, Dec. 26 @ 8 p.m. & Dec. 27 @ 6 p.m. SitaSingsTheBlues.com