French film enchants with innovative fairy tales

For grown-ups who remember making shadow puppets on a bare wall, or kids old enough to read subtitles (and who can handle a mild beheading or two), "Princes and Princesses" is a wonderfully imaginative collection of slightly fractured fairy tales.

French animator Michel Ocelot, who made the acclaimed "Kirikou and the Sorceress," uses silhouette animation to create six short tales of princes, princesses, sorceresses, boys who grow delicious figs, and very smart elderly Japanese women.

"Princes and Princesses"

An animated film written and directed by Michel Ocelot. 70 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. In French, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion through Thursday.

The stories, ranging from the world of ancient Egypt to the futuristic society of the year 3000, unfold within the charming framework of a theater stage, where three contemporary storytellers/animators sit at desks and spin their imaginative tales.

One particularly engaging story begins with a princess who turns a prince into a toad by kissing him, thus beginning a wicked chain of events (and a funny tour of the animal kingdom) that ends with a rueful reflection on the differences between princes and princesses.

Ocelot's animation, with characters depicted as elaborate, faceless black shapes against colorful backgrounds, is strangely beautiful; particularly a mist-laden view of Mount Fuji, and a garden's succession of delicately faded flowers. And the film contains one of the best ideas for a family film that I've ever seen: Right in the middle, the action stops and the screen reads "A one-minute break to talk things over."

Now, where was that idea during "Mulholland Drive"?

Moira Macdonald can be reached at 206-464-2725 or