Let’s get this out of the way. Sita Sings The Blues, in my opinion, is one of the best animated films to come out of the 21st century. It’s an enlightening little musical that manages to subvert tropes and cliches in an endearing and timeless light. It’s filled with excellent sight gags and terrific humor that manages to be both mature and silly. So, when I heard that Nina Paley was going to make a new film, in a similar vein to Sita, I was already on the hype train. Crowd Funded Animated Features usually turn out to be very special, and Paley’s pre-established worked just made me all the more excited. So, after 10 years since her last feature, Seder-Masochism comes into the scene in a glorious new light. The question is, does it hold up to Sita?
Disappointingly, yet not all that surprised, Seder-Masochism does not live up to the heights of Sita. In fact, I would dare say it’s a step down in terms of Paley’s work. In no way is Seder-Masochism a bad film. It’s still wildly enjoyable and will please the masses. However, I feel like the main problem here is the lack of narrative risk. Sure there’s a couple of fun grotesque sequences here and there, such as a brief musical number where the music is perfectly synchronized to a lineup of animated penis’s being circumcised. But as for dialogue-driven gags and scripted scenes, there’s pretty much nothing here. The majority of Seder’s plot development and pace runs on reference humor, using popular tunes as a way to drive the story. Surprisingly, this worked better than I thought it would conceptually. Unfortunately, you can only go so far in making a film that’s driven by pre-existing songs until the audience member gradually get’s bored.
I kind of just wished that the film focused a bit more on Paley’s interview with her father. Those scarce beautiful moments resonated with me, and even sparked interest in religious related discourse. Yet, what we got instead was a fun film with plenty of derivative reference humor (and the occasional present-day political insight), which also contains what is probably the best use of the song Moses Supposes ever put to screen. Singin’ in the Rain can just fuck off! (Just kidding, still love you Gene Kelly)
Seder-Masochism is a tiresome yet very enjoyable flick. While it may be a step back in the wrong direction for Paley, there’s still a lot here to like and think about, including conversations on the importance of religious affiliations in one’s heritage. The only thing I would like to say to Paley, is that she missed the obvious opportunity to put Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel during “The Darkness” portion of the film. I’m still very salty about that Nina.
“Nina Paley Will Release Seder-Masochism Online For FREE In 2019 After It’s Festival Run”