Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

US © 2012 Cinereach. P: Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn. D: Benh Zeitlin. SC: Lucy Alibar, Benh Alibar - from the one act stage play Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar. DP: Ben Richardson - Camera: Arriflex 16 SR3, Zeiss Super Speed Lenses, Arriflex 416, Zeiss Super Speed Lenses - Laboratory: Alpha Cine Labs, Seattle (WA), USA - Film negative format: 16 mm (Kodak Vision2 200T 7217, Vision3 500T 7219) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 16 (source format) - Release format: 35 mm (spherical) (blow-up), D-Cinema - 1.85:1. PD: Alex DiGerlando. AD: Dawn Masi. Set dec: Annie Evelyn, Erin Staub. Cost: Stephani Lewis. Makeup: Carlos Savant. Hair: Brittany Mroczek. VFX team: big. There is a special unit called the Aurochs Unit. M: Dan Romer, Benh Zeitlin. Performed by: Lost Bayou Ramblers. S: Bob Edwards. ED: Crockett Doob, Affonso Gonçalves. There is a special boat unit. C: Quvenzhané Wallis (Hushpuppy), Dwight Henry (Wink), Levy Easterly (Jean Battiste), Lowell Landes (Walrus), Pamela Harper (Little Jo), Gina Montana (Miss Bathsheba), Amber Henry (LZA), Johnshel Alexander (Joy Strong), Nicholas Clark (boy with bell), Joseph Brown (Winston). Special appearance: Windle Bourg. Loc: Louisiana: Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish. 93 min. Distributed by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at the Helsinki Film Festival Opening Gala, Bio Rex, 20 September 2012.

Wikipedia: "Hushpuppy, a fearless six-year-old girl, lives with her father, Wink, in "the Bathtub", a fictitious southern bayou community on an island surrounded by rising waters. Wink teaches her to survive on her own, preparing her for a time when he's no longer there to protect her. Hushpuppy's strength is tested when Wink contracts a mysterious illness and a massive storm floods the community with help from a nearby levee. In Hushpuppy's vivid imagination these events are linked with the ice caps melting, unleashing ancient, long-frozen aurochs (depicted as boar-like rather than the ancestors of cattle). Despite attempts to rescue the community by government rescue workers, Hushpuppy, Wink and other Bathtub residents return to the Bathtub. With the aurochs coming and Wink's health fading, Hushpuppy goes in search of her lost mother." She brings back alligator meat cooked by a familiar looking woman at the sea brothel called Elysian Fields. After her father's death she shoves the corpse off on a boat and sets it on fire as promised.

"The fictional island of the film, "Isle de Charles Doucet" known to its residents as the Bathtub, was inspired by several isolated and independent fishing communities threatened by erosion, hurricanes and rising sea levels in Lousiana's Terrebonne Parish, most notably the rapidly eroding Isle de Jean Charles. It was filmed in Terrebonne Parish town Montegut."

"The film was shot on sixteen millimetre film, and director Benh Zeitlin created the production with a small professional crew, and with dozens of local residents in and around Montegut, Louisiana. The film-makers call themselves "Court 13" and are the first credited at the end of the film." (Wikipedia)

In the presence of the producer Dan Janvey who told us that of the cast, none had acted before. - "The Bathtub" was completely made up. - The crowd scenes were made possible by beer and fireworks. - The pig was called Hannah Montana. - Although the community seen in the movie is fictional it is based on actual resilient communities in Louisiana. - The music is all played by an actual orchestra created for the movie, and the main theme is like "a national anthem of The Bathtub" in Hushpuppy's mind. - Benh Zeitlin is from Queens, New York, a complete outsider, but he found his home in Louisiana, and was well received in Louisiana. - Obama dug it. (Dan Janvey's remarks after the screening.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a masterpiece. It is a work of poetry with images based on raw reality, reverberating with meanings topical and timeless. There is an assured touch in the structure and the visual storytelling. Benh Zeitlin has direct access to ancient traditions of mythic lore reaching back to the stone age imagery of the aurochs. The antediluvian age has again passed us by. The new deluge has started in Louisiana. The melting ice fields of the poles are recurrent images in the movie. The father is dying, and he teaches his little daughter survival skills, including catching catfish with her bare hands. The performances of the actors, especially the little Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy, are moving and convincing. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie about the end of the world, but there is such a vibrant sense of passion that it is ultimately about the life instinct that will survive the mess we have made of our planet.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a brilliantly original work. Associations range from Wild Oranges (King Vidor), The Young One (Luis Buñuel), and Wild River (Elia Kazan) to Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky) but Benh Zeitlin is not copying anybody. He is creating something new from first hand observations of his own, of Lucy Alibar, and his cast and crew.

At home after the screening I was singing "Polk Salad Annie" by Tony Joe White: "down in Louisiana / where the alligators grow so mean / there lived a girl that I swear to the world / made the alligators look tame".

The warm "juicy and delicious" quality of the colour of the Super 16 mm cinematography has been successfully recreated in the 2K digital intermediate.

No comments: