$9.99 Signals Triumphant Return of Puppet Sex


As recommended this morning in Movieline Attractions, the stop-motion puppet animation $9.99 offers heady doses of drama, comedy, perversion and bittersweet romance in one of the world's most dysfunctional apartment buildings. But for Israeli author Etgar Keret, 10 of whose short stories form the basis for the film, one subplot in particular stands out. And considering its emphasis on puppet sex, how can you blame him?

The title of the film refers to the price of a mail-order pamphlet purporting to reveal the meaning of life. But the overlapping characters have their own ways of deducing that secret, from magic to maintaining a piggy bank to self-medicating and more. The most surreal subplot involves ladies man Lenny and his supermodel neighbor Tanita; their mutual seduction includes an increasingly twisted sex routine whose most intimate exchange required two full days to film.

"Well, there was a camera move," director Tatia Rosenthal told Movileline. She had previously adapted Keret's A Buck's Worth and Crazy Glue as stop-motion shorts before Keret hand-picked her to develop $9.99. "It's embarrassing, I have to say. I'm there with the animator and said, 'Then she'll do that, then she'll do that. She'll throw her head back, and so on.' And he said, 'You mean to say she's climaxing?' 'Yes, I mean to say that.' There were people who were laughing about it for days -- that one shot. But I think Daniel [Alderson] is such a sensitive animator, he could make it fly."

Which was essential for Keret, who took the scene -- particularly its intimacy -- as seriously as any other in the film.

"You know, when people think about sex and puppets, they tend to think about Team America," he explained. "But the idea to have a sex scene between puppets -- something that would be lasting, passionate, and wouldn't affect you in an ironic way? I've never seen anything like it. And I think the sensibility behind such a relationship is really the raison d'etre of the entire film. The entire film has the same logic as making a sex scene with puppets that you actually find sexy."