[Northkeep] "You're a strange little mouse." "Thank you."

Peter Schorn peterschorn at pdq.net
Fri Feb 6 23:09:33 PST 2009

If you haven't seen "The Tale of Despereaux," you're missing something you
really shouldn't.  

Not just because it's got a cute mouse who thinks he's Errol Flynn
("Reepicheep Unbound?").  Not just because it's a rousing tribute to the old
three-reel swashbucklers of yore.  Not because it's got a fine script, based
on a fine book, or because it contains gem-like performances by the likes of
Tracy Ullman, Emma Watson, Frank Langella and Dustin Hoffman.  Though these
would be reasons enough.

But because it is a movie about Truth, Honor and Courage.  About absorbing
these ideals from old and fantastical legends in old and fantastical books
that no one else seems to value. About those who remain true to these ideals
through exile and peril.  About those who betray their ideals, and how they
may be redeemed.

Because although it is a children's movie, it is anything but a childish
movie. Because it deals with true and weighty things in mature and graceful

Because it is a cultured work that honors its theme with ornaments of
stunning craftsmanship, research and detail, just as Medieval monks would
illuminate the lives of saints.  Because its visual aesthetic is not Ye Olde
Genyric Medieval Tymes but inspired by fine works of Medieval and
Renaissance art which you may see referenced either directly, as in the
Chief Cook's rather surprising assistant, or indirectly, in the Heironymous
Bosch panorama of the rats' benighted metropolis.

Because it is the first film I've seen to correctly depict the gold-leaf
glow of an illuminated manuscript initial, seen from an inch away, by
candle-light.  You and I may have seen that, how the gold seems to catch the
fire and gleam like a live coal. We know it from a glimpse of someone's
peerage scroll when they were elevated by torchlight at War Court.  But how
did the people who made this movie come by that knowledge?  I doubt they
were all SCA folk!

Well then, they came to it the way anyone comes to any worthy thing, no
matter how small. By scholarship, which is a form of Truth.  By hard work,
which is a form of Courage.  And by uncompromising artistry, which is a form
of Honor.

It seems they've heard the same trumpets as we have, and like us, followed
them.  How well they have, may readily be seen.

And should, before it leaves town.

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