Moonrise Kingdom

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Suzy: Was he a good dog?
Sam: Who’s to say? But he didn’t deserve to die.

Plot Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: “Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness.

I first saw Moonrise Kingdom as the first of a (self-selected) double feature along with North by Northwest. It was only the second Wes Anderson film I had ever seen, the first being The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I simply was not prepared for the absurdism. The style, however, struck me as interesting, so when I came across a comparison of Anderson to Yasujirō Ozu, I was convinced I should give it another try, and I’m glad I did.

Like Ozu, Wes Anderson has a distinctive style that the story unfolds within: the medium is the message. However, whereas Ozu was a realist, Anderson is a surrealist, his tone comedic rather than melancholic and his pacing brisk. Ozu was once thought to be “too Japanese” to appeal to a foreign audience, and I wonder if Anderson is perhaps too American. In Moonrise Kingdom he uses Scouting as a basis not only for understanding the core identities of some of the main characters but as the basis for key plot points as well. In this way, he is able to tell a familiar story of two misunderstood non-conformists running away together in a way that is simultaneously humorous, familiar, and completely absurd. It’s a delicate balancing act that requires some complicity on the part of the viewer to succeed, but–if you just go with it, something I was able to do the first time around–it totally works.

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