Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Labyrinth, Part 2: Life's Not Fair

As Sarah ventures deeper into the Labyrinth, she sadly misses out on the greatest part of the movie: the Magic Dance.

The longer I spend trying to comprehend this musical number, the less sense it makes.  It is simultaneously campy, uncomfortable, inappropriate, and genius.  This is the scene many fans remember fondly about the movie and it proves that Henson and Bowie know how to put on a show.

Sarah eventually finds herself blocked by four guards protecting the doors that lead to the next part of the maze.  After complaining about how unfair it is that the maze constantly changes around her, deliberately impeding her progress, she enjoys a brief moment of victory when she solves the classic door guard riddle (one guard always lies and the other always tells the truth).

The other two guards are just for show.

The door she chooses dumps her down a shaft into another memorable scene.  Always one to try new forms of puppetry, Henson creates a very clever environment filled with creatures known as the Helping Hands.  They consist of many puppeteers sticking their arms through a wall, and it's amazing to see it in action.

Let's give her a hand.

The hands not only exist to move Sarah about, but they also can form faces and speak to her.  No two faces are alike, resulting in some very creative images.

It's a pareidolia party!

The hands deposit Sarah in a darkened cave where Hoggle finds her.  It is called the "oubliette," meaning "forgotten."  Sarah is intended to waste away here, but Hoggle takes pity on her.  This movie borrows a lot from fantasy books, and here we get the first hint at the Wizard-of-Oz elements that will help structure the story.  Although Hoggle was introduced earlier, it was not exactly clear where his loyalties lied.  Here, we see that he is the Tin Man of sorts, capable of great sympathy.  He is under instructions to lead Sarah back outside the maze, but when she gives him some of her homemade jewelry, he promises to help her proceed.

Never under estimate the power of plastic.

Hoggle takes Sarah through the underground passageways, but they run into Jareth (cleverly disguised as a puppet) who berates Hoggle for his treason.  Jareth punishes Sarah by shortening her time limit.  When Sarah protests that this is also not fair, Jareth quips that she has nothing to compare this situation to that could be construed as fair.  He's been making up the rules as he goes along the whole time.  Nothing about this whole endeavor is fair.  It's useless to keep bringing it up.

As if to drive this point home, he summons a large drill-like machine known as the Cleaner which will easily crush Sarah and Hoggle in the depths of the tunnels.  Fortunately, Sarah realizes that she'll have to make her own rules and pushes down a wall to escape death.  This uncovers a ladder that lets the two surface in a new part of the Labyrinth, the hedge maze (which is even further away from the castle than the stone maze).  Sarah gets fussy at this new development, especially considering Hoggle promised to get her closer.

A new character appears shortly after, an old wise man with an annoying bird-hat.  The two perform a little comedy routine as they provide "assistance" to Sarah.

Another phallic character to help give Sarah directions.

The old man tells Sarah that she must go backwards in order to go forwards.  The bird however makes it clear that they are being played for fools.  If there is one thing Sarah is learning, it's not to trust anyone at any time.

Especially if they are a puppet.

Tomorrow, Sarah meets a brainless brute who was designed to become the must-have plush toy of 1986.

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