A Looking Closer Film Forum is an evolving “conversation” among critics… a “round-table” review of perspectives from critics I regularly consult as I revise my list of viewing priorities. I haven’t seen the film yet, but these reviews have intrigued me.

Check back from time to time, as I may add more reviews to the list.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

  • Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere): “The passionately praised Beasts of the Southern Wild … is everything its admirers have said it is. It’s a poetic, organic, at times ecstatic capturing of a hallucinatory Louisiana neverland called the Bathtub, down in the delta lowlands and swarming with all manner of life and aromas, and a community of scrappy, hand-to-mouth fringe-dwellers, hunters, jungle-tribe survivors, animal-eaters and relentless alcohol-guzzlers. It’s something to sink into and take a bath in on any number of dream-like, atmospheric levels, and a film you can smell and taste and feel like few others I can think of. …
  • Peter Sciretta reports a standing ovation at Sundance after posting his own awestruck reaction.
  • James Rocchi tweets: “BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: Imagine TREE OF LIFE in a Godless (but not hopeless or loveless) world of mud and blood and fire and flood.”
  • Noel Murray tweets: “BEASTS OF SOUTHERN WILD (A-) Picture a live-action Miyazaki, with Days Of Heaven narration, set in pre-apocalyptic Louisiana. There you go.”
  • Eric Kohn (The Playlist): “Supremely ambitious and committed to profundity, Beasts sets the bar too high and suffers from a muddled assortment of expressionistic concepts, but it still manages to glide along its epic aspirations.”
  • Karina Longworth (LA Weekly): “Where so many films here at Sundance posit life on Earth circa now as a battle to stave off decline, Beasts both embraces that battle, and infantilizes it. That’s not necessarily a pejorative — when Hushpuppy says something like,”The entire universe depends on everything fitting together just right, and if you can fix the broken piece, everything can go right back,” her childlike understanding of returning to an old normal could double for the allegedly adult worldviews of what seems like half the films here. The film is never less than a wonder to look at; it’s also rarely anything more.”
  • Michael Nordine (Film Threat): “Beasts of the Southern Wild suggests Days of Heaven by way of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives: a dizzying, often fantastical journey across the outer delta as seen through the eyes of a little girl. A latter-day mud doctor, Hushpuppy narrates her tale with equal parts pluck and lyricism…. The balance struck here speaks to one of the film’s primary through-lines: the internal-external harmony between all things living and dead, even and especially those that wouldn’t appear to fit together. To say that Benh Zeitlin’s debut feature … is more than the sum of his parts would be to erroneously imply that the many diverse facets are always uniquely identifiable as such; everything blends so seamlessly that the film’s very creation seems a marvel in and of itself.”
  • Simon Abrams (House Next Door): “This is the film you might get if Terry Gilliam conflated David Gordon Green’s George Washington with Alice in Wonderland. … Beasts of the Southern Wild is … a beautiful fairy tale about survivor’s guilt that’s about as good as the festival hype would have you believe.”

Come back later. I may be posting more voices here.