For Reel

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
September 12, 2012, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Benh Zeitlin

It is a mistake to politicize Beasts of the Southern Wild, director Benh Zeitlin’s extraordinary first feature and an award winner at Sundance and Cannes this past year. While the Katrina-like iconography is inescapable, it is nonetheless a picture which more firmly associates itself with the works of Pixar or Studio Ghibli – a resourceful young girl with a broken home embarks on an epic adventure that alternates between the mystical and the familiar. The critics who suggest the inappropriateness of privileged filmmakers making a social realist fable about a poor, isolated section of New Orleans are not inherently wrong in having their concerns, but where they are mistaken is in assuming that the picture is about class above all else. This is Spirited Away, not Trouble the Water. While, admittedly, the cutesy charm of the bayou can come a little too close to The Princess and the Frog, the picture is a sensational work of feeling, with Zeitlin hitting every emotional note that he can with great aggression and economy. If it is not an important film, it is irresistibly manipulative – the most joyous and uncynical treat that the year has had to offer thus far. Quvenzhane Wallis’ Hushpuppy is the standout in the year of feminist heroines – unlike Katniss she is not at the mercy of a love triangle, and whereas Princess Merida is defined by compromise, Hushpuppy is inflexible and absolute.