Friday, July 27, 2012

Thrilled at the Movies

Recently I saw the indie film BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, which won major prizes at both the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals.  I was blown away by the movie.  This one is a genuine original.
The protagonist is Hushpuppy, a six-year-old living with her father on a Mississippi Delta island pretty much forgotten by the world.  Hushpuppy is played by a completely untrained little actress, Quvenzhané Wallis, who is astonishing.  This child makes no distinction between what is "real" and what exists in her powerful imagination.  (When her father disappears for a few days, she says, "Daddy might have turned into a bug or a tree.  There was no way to tell.")  Her teacher has told her about aurochs, prehistoric creatures that are just as solid to Hushpuppy as the fish she and her father catch in their ramshackle, improvised boat.  What is wonderful is that the movie makes no distinction, either.  When Hushpuppy imagines something, it appears, and we don't know if it's "really" there are not.

This makes for a rich, sometimes baffling, and always absorbing trip through two alien worlds: the island culture, and Hushpuppy's mind.  Her mother is dead, her father is dying, a huge storm hits and mostly destroys the island, aurochs appear, polar ice caps melt and crash into Louisiana, her mother comes back, maybe -- it's a visual feast with its own individual logic, in which longing and imagination trump linear thinking.  Don't miss this one.  SF has nothing as alien or complex as this little girl's brain and the film that creates it.

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