Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Odyssey of the Pacific

(Fernando Arrabal, 1982)
This kids' film is goodhearted, lush, and eccentric. I feel funny about critiquing it for not hanging together - the disjointedness is in itself so pervasive that it feels like a deliberate statement, and yet it falls just short of clicking. Every single character is possessed by their own very peculiar inner life. A little boy projects himself into heroic fantasies, a little girl is discovering her sexuality, a Cambodian refugee boy longs to return and marry his mother, and with such divergent inner lives it seems that there's no equal interaction: even outside of the dominant fantasy/flashback sequences, every scene is dominated by one character's concern, with the others present as sympathetic spectators. A remote and toy-obsessed uncle would seem to present a critique of this dogged inwardness, but then Mickey Rooney's wheelchair-bound train engineer comes along to channel all this fantasy into a fantastic collective project. Nobody is transformed; in spite of the camaraderie everyone continues to dwell within their eccentricities. Which is actually kind of daring, noble even. I guess that means the problem is Rooney, whose usual juvenile enthusiasm is louder and busier than the rest of the movie, and so upsets the delicate balance.

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