American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Remarkably the film is showing in 3-D in some venues (not at the Siskel Center, where it opens Friday), which has no effect on the characters but serves to delineate them from the background. The use of 3-D with a film so adamantly in two dimensions is a novelty. I wonder what it adds.
Michel Ocelot tells six fairy tales here, none too long to outstay its welcome, all told with a pleasing energy. There is a linking device: In a movie studio, presumably in Paris, an experienced older man at a computer is helping two young actors explore roles they might want to play, and in the process, they create stories and costumes for their chosen roles.
The stories are all fantastical, all straightforward enough that to describe them would come perilously close to spoiler-land. The curtain-raiser, "The Werewolf," involves that staple of fantasy, the werewolf, and tells the story of a prince who marries the older of two sisters, under the mistaken impression that she was the one who saved his life. This treacherous person tricks him and then, to trap him inside a wolf, hides the magic chain he needs to become human again. But the younger sister … ah, but you will see.
"Ti Jean and Belle-Sans-Connaitre" is a Caribbean tale (set there on a whim by the old man), which tells of a boy who ventures into a cave and unknowingly tumbles down into the land of the dead (who walk on their hands). "Tam-Tam Boy," from Africa, is about a young drummer whose talent is not respected until he saves his village.
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