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Beasts of the Southern Wild, a Brilliant Fairy Tale

Certainly most filmmakers strive to be unique in executing any of their films, even if the subject, or the action wears its influence like a proud a flag.  Beasts Of Southern Wild, however, is like no other film I’ve seen in recent memory.  While the roots of Beast’s story can, of course, be found elsewhere; the manner of its execution, its cast, and really almost every aspect to the film is so profoundly different, and so ridiculously good, it makes one believe in the art of cinema again.

With its shoestring budget, and cast of unknowns, the film dives right into the unconventional world of Hush Puppy and her daddy Wink.  Hush Puppy is a tough as nails baby of the bayou, being raised by her outsider daddy Wink who drinks and curses and, through efforts logical only to he, tries to raise his daughter right.  They live in a bohemian style society of weirdos, drunks, and gypsies outside of New Orleans in what they call “The Bathtub”, away from most of society’s rules.  This “world” that the film creates is a character all into itself.  If it wasn’t for hints that our modern world existed, you’d think we were watching a post apocalyptic flick, or even something set in a not so distant past with its rustic handmade homes built from scraps, its odd sense of community, its unorthodox methods of teaching their society’s children, and the connected sense of community among the people of the filthy village.  The ambiguity of this is amazing to to me, and yet the reality of it is established so subtly and matter of fact, that you won’t question its existence or its people.  The choice to shoot this film in a neo realistic style may have been a monetary choice, but its aesthetic is undeniably visceral.

Quvenzhané Wallis is a dream as Hushpuppy.  Captivating in her command, with her tiny screams that hide a lion within her heart, and a wisdom that perhaps her father Wink doesn’t quite realize she has, and that he is incapable of.  And our patriarch, portrayed by first timer and unknown Dwight Henry, is nothing short of magnificent. A native of New Orleans, and local baker, Henry survived two hurricanes, including the one portrayed in the film; ( I assume) Katrina.  Henry’s  steel gaze and stubborn quality as the character Wink is only matched by the very real love he has for daughter Hush Puppy.  Watch the man disappear into quiet euphoria as he reminisces his oddball, Miller High Life soaked courtship of Hush Puppy’s absent angelic gator-killin’ mamma.  I don’t know what kind of baker Henry is, but I know that he is a gift to the acting community, and I hope he stays.

To divulge more of the details of this unorthodox and beautiful fairy tale film, would be a disservice.  Beasts of Southern Wild plays like a dream, and in a sea of films following formula, it is nothing short of a dream come true.

 

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