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Boy & the World - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Boy & the World
Directing: B
Acting: B-
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+
Animation: B+

It took me a while to get Boy & the World. For a while, as I watched, I wondered why it even became one of the five nominees for Best Animated Feature. Slim pickings? Well, now I get it. I still wouldn't go out of my way to see it again, or particularly to insist anyone else see it, but neither do I fault those who do love it. I can see how it could be loved. I just didn't love it. I liked it.

There are several peculiarities about this Brazilian animated feature film. It's nearly dialogue-free, but when there is dialogue, there is the expected Portuguese spoken -- with no subtitles. I really, really wish there had been subtitles. Whose weirdly naive "artistic choice" was it to deny American audiences the knowledge of what's been spoken? Brazilians get to know.

There's almost a bait-and-switch as far as the narrative goes. The story is actually fairly linear, but you're well into the film before you realize it. The opening sequence features a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of concentric circular patterns that expand out and morph into still other circular patterns. Pretty early on you wonder how the experience of this movie might be enhanced while stoned. This point of view would apply from beginning to end.

The animation itself is peculiar. In the beginning, it looks drawn with crayons. Mayne pastels. But the images are increasingly detailed, until some time into the story, the shots are stunning in their intricacy. I went from feeling relatively indifferent to the animation to finding myself thinking, more than once, Holy shit, that's awesome. The "Boy" of the title is who we follow through the story, although he's following either his dad or an older brother or himself -- we learn this for sure near the end -- from his quiet home on a farm in nature, to overwhelming urban cityscapes. These ultimately include ingenious visual references to manufacturing and consumerism, advertising and waste. The cityscapes are not rendered with a particularly affectionate eye. But I found the giant pyramids that are themselves huge cities, like massive anthills, amazing. I want to live there.

These urban cityscapes are rendered with less of the pastel lines and more of the hard lines of traditional pen and ink, with splashes of the pastel style in billboard ads or neon signs. Boy and the World was clearly made by an army of truly talented people. They seem to have something to say with this movie, although I couldn't quite put my finger on what it is. The writing is difficult to gauge, especially when what little dialogue there is, is never translated. The editing is enough to keep interest piqued, if you can get past feeling like you're wandering through someone's lucid dream. In one sequence, cargo ships are beamed up into a domed floating city, into which they are sucked and then broken apart, turned into manufactured goods, with bright colored lines on a back backdrop. All the while "Boy" is jumping around the parts, as they are disassembled, rearranged, and reassembled into things like boxes of shrink-wrapped folded dress shirts.

As is often the case, the cities are shown to be oppressive environments designed to kill the soul. I just can't get on board with that concept. It sure is beautifully rendered in this unique animation, however. As is the entire movie.

A journey from rural tranquility to urban chaos and back in BOY & THE WORLD.

Overall: B
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