Friday, July 6, 2012

Loose Ends

I realize that with all the sarcasm, we didn't really get to discuss some of the interesting points you responded to me with about MOONRISE KINGDOM, Brandon. So, let's do that now. I owe you a real response.

First, before I get into it, I will say that you are right. There's not point in splitting hairs. I love MOONRISE KINGDOM; it already looks like it will be one of the best films of the year. Let's talk some more about it. Anyone else–please join in too. This is a film worth talking about.

Responding to your "great moon rising" post:

There's a lot of physical and emotional isolation in the film. The island is an obvious metaphor for this, but there are also numerous other visual motifs that suggest rampant emotional seclusion through spatial distance. The single shots of Scout Master Ward and his tape recorder, the segregated layout of the Bishop house, the almost impossibly high scout tree house, Captain Sharp's isolated trailer, Suzy's constant reliance on her binoculars to bring distant things near–all of these visual cues create an overwhelming sense of detachment between characters. It's all impressively done with remarkable consistency by Anderson.

With this isolation, there are also numerous visual motifs of connection or reaching out. The most obvious of these is Captain Sharp's literal outstretched hand towards Sam and Suzy as they all dangle in suspension from the church. But there are others too like Scout Master Ward jumping across the flood to save Commander Pierce from his burning cabin, the scouts' rope extended down towards Sam to free him from his "prison cell," and the moment of Suzy and Sam crossing the open field towards each other. There may be many more of these moments than I can recall too. But the idea is there: Anderson uses strong visual depictions to create a sense of outreach that breaks through spatial and emotional separations.

You're right about the divide between children and adults too. I think you have adults that don't really understand kids all that well, and kids who uncannily seem to understand adulthood better than they should. Anderson puts the kids very much on an equal plane with the adults, in terms of understanding mature ideas and making these advanced decisions. For instance, you have the scouts making a very mature decision to rethink their relationship with Sam, and Sam and Suzy's rash but still highly adult decision to live together and get "married." You could say that Sam and Suzy are just being impertinent kids by doing these things, but once you realize that both decisions come from deep emotional wounds (e.g. feeling unwanted), you also realize that these kids are acting way beyond their age. They have basically been thrust into adulthood. I think you're also right that Anderson has a resentment towards stolen adolescence because even with the adult qualities Suzy and Sam have, they still have these many childlike imaginative qualities that Anderson loves to ground them with.

I agree that the "I love you, but you don't know what you're talking about" line is great one. Again, It's another reminder of real adult darkness confronting youthful idealism, as Suzy's romantic perception of being an orphan is challenged by Sam's real-life pain over it. In one of my last posts, I mentioned feeling uncomfortable over Suzy and Sam's sexual moment together. I think a lot of the discomfort came from this idea that these two kids were behaving in a more adult (and therefore sullied) manner than the should have been. You obviously want them to be unadulterated by sex at such a young age, but you also have to realize how grown-up these kids already are. I say all of this to remind myself that Anderson does not make them sexual to be gratuitous but to further demonstrate this uneasy balance between childhood and adulthood (made the more apparent by the childhood awkwardness and naivety of the sexual scene).

You're right that the film is definitely about seeing past surfaces towards interior worth, as well. To me, that's what makes the scouts' reversal so endearing. The main precocious scout who initiates the turnaround becomes one of the film's leading heroes through his ability to see past Sam's appearance towards the brother underneath. And, of course, the theme of looking past surfaces towards the heart beneath is a great lesson for anyone who thinks the film itself is merely glib, hipster chic. There's a real heart to this film that is unmistakable.

And to reiterate what I said in an earlier post, anyone who dismisses Anderson's "kingdoms" as being wholly synthetic and therefore closed off from real life is missing the point. Anderson's films do not strive for explicit realism, but for an expression of his personality. There's emotional truth and real humanism in his constructed personal world just like there can be in an animated film or a fairy tale. Do you ever hear people complain that WALL-E is emotionally inaccessible because its characters are animated robots? Hopefully not because, honestly, I think most people can take WALL-E for what it is and find the human traits within it. If they can't do that with Anderson's films, particularly this one, then I think they are being purposefully myopic. Exactly as you said–it's their loss.

And finally, you are again very right about the ugliness undercutting all of the humor and quirkiness. The killing of the dog (hard scene to handle) is a brutal reminder of the violence, darkness, and pain that threatens the potential sweetness of the story and the lives of all the characters. In some ways, Anderson is able to provide his own version of the Lubitsch touch here because he so effortlessly mixes humor and darkness like the great master before him.

All right, so as I finish writing this post, I realize that I've started to lose all my hang-ups over Sam and Suzy's romantic union and any minor hang-ups I have with the film, period. I can honestly say that I love MOONRISE KINGDOM without reservation. Let the "I told ya so's" begin.

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