Skip to main content

Allegory of the Cave



Every once in awhile a movie comes along that truly captures the imagination, and for me that was Beasts of the Southern Wild.  It is gratifying to see it has received so many Oscar nominations, including best actress for young Quvenzhane Wallis.

This film is startling in so many ways.  Foremost is the humane way Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar have depicted the extreme poverty of this bayou community.  It makes you squeam watching little Hushpuppy make a meal for herself when she can't find her father, and flinch at her pain when stuck by a catfish her father forces her to strike with her tiny fist.  Yet, this little girl stands tall, literally growing in front of your eyes from beginning to end of this film.  Innocence gives way to world-wise young lady with the full impact of the storm is felt.

While this film is ostensibly a response to Katrina, the director breaks apart any sense of a conventional time and place, reminding me a little of Faulkner's The Old Man from If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem.  The local teacher (Miss Bathsheba) fills little Hushpuppy's head with antediluvian aurochs that lead her to imagine a post-climate-change world that she has inflicted upon the community by striking back at her father, in which these huge porcine beasts have been unlocked from the Antarctic ice and set free on her bayou plain.  But, unlike Malick's dinosaurs in The Tree of Life, these beasts fit with the semi-hallucinogenic world Hushpuppy lives in.


Zeitlin and Alibar have gone with non-actors from the local community, giving this film an authenticity few others have achieved.  There are holes, some gaping, as the writers grope to try to connect the "Bathtub" community with the outside world.  It probably would have been better to keep them isolated in their semi-primitive state like the band of cave dwellers Miss Bathsheba alludes to.  I was surprised to see A.O. Scott view it is as Spielbergian, on a budget, as this film is about as un-Spielbergian as you can get.  However, I did question the sentimentality Zeitlin squeezed from some of the scenes.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Post!

How about this one -- I'm really looking forward to reading it:

http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Never-Died-American/dp/1596916966/

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Welcome to this month's reading group selection.  David Von Drehle mentions The Melting Pot, a play by Israel Zangwill, that premiered on Broadway in 1908.  At that time theater was accessible to a broad section of the public, not the exclusive domain it has become over the decades.  Zangwill carried a hopeful message that America was a place where old hatreds and prejudices were pointless, and that in this new country immigrants would find a more open society.  I suppose the reference was more an ironic one for Von Drehle, as he notes the racial and ethnic hatreds were on display everywhere, and at best Zangwill's play helped persons forget for a moment how deep these divides ran.  Nevertheless, "the melting pot" made its way into the American lexicon, even if New York could best be describing as a boiling cauldron in the early twentieth century.

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America takes a broad view of events that led up the notorious fire, noting the growing s…

News with legs

It is nice having a range of cable news programs again.  For the last few years the only one we got from our analog cable subscriber was CNN, but with the new digital cable subscriber we get BBC, Euronews, and other premium channels if we so choose.  You realize how badly CNN has slipped behind other news networks, seeming to have adopted the Fox model of generating faux arguments with their round table discussions.  Kate Bolduan has emerged as their answer to Megyn Kelly, replete with plexiglass tables so you can see her legs better.  Chris Cuomo has become their "Hannity," stirring up unnecessary arguments mostly to hear himself talk, albeit to the left of the political spectrum.  Wolf Blitzer lords over the station like Baba O'Reilly, although he tries hard to keep his political views right down the middle.

I suppose the success of Kate Bolduan can be measured by SNL now lampooning At This Hour, and also the fan base she now has thanks to her sexy legs.  She also anc…