Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Moonrise Kingdom": This is what satire (and Benjamin Britten) is all about


Wes Anderson put together an all-star cast for his “indie” satire “Moonrise Kingdom”, written with the help of the Coppola’s.  These days, some Hollywood studios use their boutique brands (Focus) to place quirky films with all-star casts in front of “movie buff” audiences.

With this film, the fun-poking – and the background music lessons – are more important than the story, which is set on an island off the New England (Rhode Island) coast in 1965.  Scoutmaster Ward (Ed Norton) says he is a full time scoutmaster first and a math teacher part time (is he a husband and father?)  His whole thing is to whip boys into becoming men.  Those who deviate from society’s collective expectations for them (to be ready to go to war, for one thing) could await horrible fates.  So when little Sam (Jared Gilman) cuts a hole in a tent and goes on the lam with a sweetheart (Kara Hayward0, all the legions of the establishment join in the search, under threats of “Social Services” (Tilda Swinton) to put the boy in an institution and give him shock treatments.  There are plenty of other “authorities”, such as Sharp (Bruce Willis), Pierce (Harvey Keitel), and Laura (Frances McDormand), at least not throwing up from pregnancy as in “Fargo”.

I remember my brief period as a Cub Scout, probably around age eight, and the paperback manuals, and the merit badges and insignia, on khakis.  There were projects like "tie your necktie", anticipating the day you would have to as a grownup man.  I was never good at knots. 

Overlaying the film is a look of miniaturization, with doll and tree houses, and a progressive lecture on Benjamin Britten’s “A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”.  Later Saint-Saens’s “Carnival of the Animals” joins in.  The climax of the film, in which a thunderstorm and tornado-laced hurricane hits the island, employs Britten’s church opera, “Noye’s Fludde”, to great effect.  There are also effects, with the lightning, that recall similar visual concepts in “Melancholia” and even “The Hunger Games”.

There's just one scene between the tween boy and girl that tests limits; but the effect is still merely comic.  

The photography (the film is shot 1.85:1 to emphasize close-ups) uses a lot of saturated, almost cartoonish hues.  But in digital presentation (apparently in use in the Charles Center in Baltimore where I saw it, near the overcrowded Gay Pride Block Party yesterday in early evening, before an almost sold-out auditorium), the effect plays out well.  Britten’s music comes to great climax toward the end (and during the closing credits), and one needs to see this in an auditorium with full Dolby Digital capabilities, which Charles St. has (even as an old, historic complex).  The audience applauded this film. See this film in digital projection if at all possible!

The official site is here

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