I believe I have a very mild form of Stendhal Syndrome. When confronted with great beauty, especially in the arts, I feel my pulse quicken, my throat tighten and tears begin welling at the corners of my eyes. My head swims taking in all the wonder and joy. Sometimes I’ll be watching a movie and something so perfect happens - a small moment, a graceful camera move, a totally correct song cue, a stunning line of dialogue - that I actually need to compose myself.
There was no composing myself while watching Beasts of the Southern Wild. The Sundance smash had me leaking tears from almost the very beginning, and as the movie’s emotional waves overtook me I was a mess. It’s an incredible feat of cinema, a flood of rousing imagery and magical music and characters who have a life that extends far beyond the frame of the screen and deep into your heart.
The movie is opening today in a limited release, and I urge you to see it if it is playing anywhere near you. I know that the summer is traditionally the season of stupid exploding movies (and now comic book films of varying quality), but if you love movies - really, truly love movies - you’ll understand why works of unique cinema need our support, no matter the time of year.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is the movie that is saving the summer for me. Summer 2012 is feeling more and more like a dud, a boring wasteland pocked with occasional moments of goodness. I think 2012 will end up being a great year, but I suspect that the greatness won’t be evident in the box office grosses.
Here’s my Sundance review of Beasts of the Southern Wild. I stand by every word of it. Escape the hot summer heat to bask in the steamy swamp heat of The Bathtub, the semi-magical world that first-time feature director Benh Zeitlin wills to life. Dance with the people of the Bathtub, a place that has more holidays than anywhere else. Hear the heartbeat of the universe with Hushpuppy, the most surprising child role in years. See the advance of the marauding aurochs, thawed by global warming from their glacial prison. Enjoy the fact that American cinema can still be imaginative and fresh and exciting and fantastical and real.
If the movie isn’t playing near you, the soundtrack is out now. I recommend it highly as an appetite whetter.