Skip to main content



There's a movie that Mud appears to be, but isn't, that one would probably wish it had in fact been. That is, one that looks upon the heroes of our youth and sees in them projections of the strength we at the time needed them to have, for understanding them as versions of ourselves but in the adult world. Ellis is a fourteen-year-old boy with an abnormal amount of bravery, self-control and heart, but a lot of what is distinctive about him looks like it might be at risk as the life that nourished it--his life with his two parents, living up river amongst loner individualists--is collapsing, and he'll be absconded by his mother into a townie life. The townie kids hang out in packs, are ruled by peer expectations, and don't seem worth a whole bunch. They make great components of your own feats, if all you do is periodically range amongst them and thwart or humiliate them, but if they were your everyday milieu your automatic need for company and experimentation amongst people your own age, might mean your own inviting upon yourself a poison which would cripple what was notable about you. If you sensed that something of the kind was due to hit you, you might in Ellis's position start imagining suddenly being visited upon by mythic characters of great strength, that seemed to have bridged the divide between childhood and adulthood but wholly retained their fierce nature, heart and will. And when they talk about life, as Mud does, as if it is fundamentally ruled by mythos, you'd have the reassuring sense that your own appreciation of the world is brewed from the same mix the whole universe is universally of. You might lose confidence during the day, and feel powerless and without sympatico friends, but in the evening glancing at the constellations of the Archer or the Centaur, you'll feel that wink of appreciation that will gather some of your strength back to you. 

Arguably, the mythic characters I'm referring to in this film--Mud himself, his "dad"--the retired military sniper, and Juniper--are shown to in fact be, if not nothing, certainly lesser of the sort. But not too much, in my judgment, for they still seem of greater motivation and purpose than anyone in the film--exempting Ellis's mother, whose drive to finally live her own life, and even her wishing for her family to gather for dinner, chimes in the movie as sort of a death-knell an incantation of powerful eternal adolescent spirit has to be very quickly created against. And the danger in their being represented this way is that it conveys that what you need to do in life is set your sense of yourself early, abscond from the social world your peers will get into during adolescence and early-adulthood, and arc back into some kind of interaction with the world in adulthood--as if you alone had diverted from "the college" path in the game "Life," to rejoin them later in contest of family and other stakes, should you desire. I'm sure in some cases this might keep you "truer," more truly functional and happy than everyone else--ala Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. But it probably means that the universe of conversation and social refinements and personal awareness and understanding that one can be become acquainted with amongst life with groups of people, that can make one actually surpass becoming an adolescent's hero and become a fully realized social adult, will be denied you. For this kind of growth you've got to be able to relax and hang--be the kid who sees some good from milling about with a peer group; be the kid who would near more want to relax and jam with Neckbone's uncle Galen (to be fair to the film, Galen is not portrayed here entirely without his attractions), than putting the universe right by conjoining Mud to his eternal equal. 


Popular posts from this blog

Full conversation about "Bringing Up Baby" at the NewYorker Movie Facebook Club

Richard Brody shared a link.Moderator · November 20 at 3:38pm I'm obsessed with Bringing Up Baby, which is on TCM at 6 PM (ET). It's the first film by Howard Hawks that I ever saw, and it opened up several universes to me, cinematic and otherwise. Here's the story. I was seventeen or eighteen; I had never heard of Hawks until I read Godard's enthusiastic mention of him in one of the early critical pieces in "Godard on Godard"—he called Hawks "the greatest American artist," and this piqued my curiosity. So, the next time I was in town (I… I was out of town at college for the most part), I went to see the first Hawks film playing in a revival house, which turned out to be "Bringing Up Baby." I certainly laughed a lot (and, at a few bits, uncontrollably), but that's not all there was to it. I had never read Freud, but I had heard of Freud, and when I saw "Bringing Up Baby," its realm of symbolism made instant sense; it was obviou…

"The Zookeeper's Wife" as historical romance

A Polish zoologist and his wife maintain a zoo which is utopia, realized. The people who work there are blissfully satisfied and happy. The caged animals aren't distraught but rather, very satisfied. These animals have been very well attended to, and have developed so healthily for it that they almost seem proud to display what is distinctively excellent about them for viewers to enjoy. But there is a shadow coming--Nazis! The Nazis literally blow apart much of this happy configuration. Many of the animals die. But the zookeeper's wife is a prize any Nazi officer would covet, and the Nazi's chief zoologist is interested in claiming her for his own. So if there can be some pretence that would allow for her and her husband to keep their zoo in piece rather than be destroyed for war supplies, he's willing to concede it.

The zookeeper and his wife want to try and use their zoo to house as many Jews as they can. They approach the stately quarters of Hitler's zoologist …