Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Man on Film: Beasts of the Southern Wild

There are few films that feel as completely and utterly unique as Beasts of the Southern Wild. Benh Zeitlin's feature-length directorial debut (as best I can tell, the lawyer Ben Zeitlin from Terriers is not named after Benh) is visually stunning. In and of itself, that should usually be enough to at least warrant one's precious time, but Beasts of the Southern Wild is much more than just arresting.

Zeitlin carves out a filmic niche that is unlike nearly anything you have seen. Rejoicing in the world of the contemporary primitive, living on the outside of the modern world, looking on with fear, superstition, and awe, Zeitlin brings us the story of Hushpuppy (played by the ferocious Quvenzhané Wallis), a strong six-year-old girl whose semi-present father, Wink, has fallen ill (with what seemed to me to be pleurisy, but I honestly can't remember if it was ever diagnosed) as a hurricane bears down on the Bathtub, a no man's land in the titular southern wilds of the Louisiana Gulf Coast. As their home is battered and beaten, Hushpuppy and Wink struggle through the wrecked terrain in an attempt to repiece their lives together.

Their perseverance and indomitable spirit are infectious. Their story, fantastic. Zeitlin infuses the film with magical realism that rivals the most successful entrants into the genre, feeling right at home with the best of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What we are presented with is an outright triumph. It is undoubtedly one of the most original films to come out in years, and rather than tell you more of what happens, I recommend you just watch it. Though I saw it theatrically months ago, it is now available in nearly every way you would want it to be: on Blu-rayDVD, and Amazon Prime (for only $3.99). Do yourself a solid and take this one in as soon as humanly possible. Beasts of the Southern Wild is undoubtedly in the conversation for best film of the year. Watch it.

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