Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beasts of the Childhood Wild

A friend of mine took me to see The Beasts of the Southern Wild a few weeks ago, before the return of the cold season. Still, a month later, I am still thinking about it. Stories of difficult childhoods often mesmerize me, especially when the magical mindset of youth sways the tides of reality. This makes me a sucker for really good children's lit, and even some that's mediocre. I imagine that some people think adults who read young adult fiction haven't grown up, but I think it may just be a sign of having had a really difficult childhood. The reader searches for other voices to illuminate the unfathomable jungle, one step at a time.

The Beasts of the Southern Wild is one such piece of artwork, one that takes the messy and unworkable, screws it up into another form, and proclaims it as our own. The main character is no victim, as much as I cry for her, and her father is no devil, as flawed as he is.

Wow. This movie still gives me chills.

I have often complained that CGI is taking the art and humanity out of film. I will go for a wonky puppet and a whacked animatronic any day over the slick near reality of most contemporary CGI-enhanced products.

Brave excepted.

I will watch spray-painted bubble wrap with more glee than I will a highly detailed, shockingly life-like monster. I love old Doctor Who's, for example.

So, not surprisingly, I adored that the reality of this child's life transformed itself into some massive, costume bedecked boars, super-imposed old style, maybe even using an optical printer, over the footage of one courageous little girl. It was so much truer to childhood, where the old bear rug is real, the shadow on the wall is a monster, and the wind in the trees is the banshee's cry. No CGI steals away this reality.

I don't have the vocabulary to tell you about the actors. Except to say that the little girl in the lead, Quvenzhané Wallis, has to be the best small actor on the planet. Without any exaggeration. And her father, Dwight Henry, is the best King Lear I've ever seen.

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