Friday, May 25, 2012

Boy (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 


Just when you thought you might have seen all the territories the world over, a film arrives that delights and keeps you guessing. The film is simply called "Boy". It is a sharp and solidly told coming of age film with a quirky Kiwi flair that has enough color, verve and gusto to satisfy 10,000 lion dancers during an Auckland Lantern Festival.

The main character known only as Boy (James Rolleston) is coping from the loss of his mom while his father is serving time in prison. Boy is presumably the man of the house as few adults are seen. Boy manages the best he can, frequently daydreaming about Michael Jackson's video "Thriller". The film takes place in New Zealand in 1984. 

Boy, an eleven year old Maori, is a four foot dynamo: plucky, mischievous, pop-culture driven and mercurial, this kid is an addictive messy mix of  Huck Finn and  Charlie Bucket from that sweetly perverse masterpiece by Roald Dahl. You will fall for him and James Rolleston within moments. Things move in a predictable drudgery for Boy who aims to one day move to a big city and meet Michael Jackson. He is bullied by other boys and preoccupied with keeping his younger artistic brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) from drawing on everything he sees. Eketone-Whitu is round faced and observant with an adorable Zen-like complacency well ahead of his years. 

Without warning Boy's reckless and often violent father arrives, played wonderfully by the film's director, Taika Waititi. The absent deadbeat dad belongs to a gang more Stooge-like than serious, but nonetheless scary. He rants and raves and falls all over himself. The father takes to wearing an old war helmet and starts nonsensical combat exercises. He smokes pot and drinks incessantly thinking himself a Shogun warrior. Waititi is a comedian and part of the comedy troupe the Humourbeasts. He knows full well that an air of slapstick, contrary to making his role more silly actually intensifies the aura of menace. The father is part Hunter Thompson and part Dennis Hopper. As both a dunce and a demon, the father is an amoral dervish just crazy enough to do anything. 

As the youngsters are often alone to fend for themselves within a crumbling shack, (in one scene the house is reduced to almost nothing due to an episode of rage) this film could have been a genuine downer. Luckily, the film is directed with such boom and bounce, that what evolves can only be described as a kaleidoscopic rave of the heart, both gentle and gutsy that moves like music. Within the calm reverie of one boy huddled within the wreckage of an automobile, dwells the spirit of J.G. Ballard's fiction. The landscapes of youth here are both festive and foreboding.

Adding to this is a facile and frenetic fusion of animation and live action  that peppers the screen like crazed Crayola valentines. These charming sequences introduce each scene and oddly, both enhance and dispel the intermittent threats of malevolence.

"Boy" is a near perfect film illustrating the euphoria and folly of a youngster in longing for everything as long as it contains both Speed and Space. The film is courageous in showing the hidden picaresque qualities of everyday life, where both kids and mostly adults, yearn for colorful Pop lives and have to accept sitting still, either fighting or moonwalking during intermittent feints of REM sleep.

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