In day-to-day life, it’s common enough that a friend or family member will say something along the lines of ‘It’s like that bit in The Simpsons when…’
The reference may be to a movie or book or any cultural output, the intent usually just to entertain with the comparison. What’s not so common, however, is to partake in a scene-by-scene, word-for-word, reenactment of a whole film. You may be able to quote every line from Anchorman, but have you ever acted it out in its entirety?
The answer for normal people is ‘No, of course not’; the answer for Angulo family, on the other hand, is ‘Yes, most certainly.’
The Angulos are the centre of new stranger-than-fiction documentary, The Wolfpack.
The family live in a Manhattan apartment on the Lower East Side (the bad part of town). They live there and nowhere else, seldom venturing outside into the big bad world. The family consists of seven children, their home-schooling mother, and their strict father, the only one who holds the key to the front door.
With no social interaction, the children pour themselves into the films they own, allowing themselves to become Batman, share the camaraderie and betrayal from Reservoir Dogs, and be the BMF Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction.
It’s like prison, but instead of yard time, you get to appreciate Blue Velvet.
They enjoy themselves immensely, but is it a real existence? Shouldn’t they be out in the real world, instead of locked up inside?
This is the question that The Wolfpack asks, through the very intimate viewpoint of director, Crystal Moselle. Although The Wolfpack is receiving plaudits and praise worldwide, Moselle must currently be in a state of panic or depression: never again will she have a story that’s this interesting or weird.
Her film career can only get worse.
The Wolfpack begins as the children start to throw away the shackles of their contained youth, and start to interact with others. They haven’t fully overthrown their father’s patriarchal ideals, but they’re getting there. They reminisce about childhood, how they knew so little of what was out there, and how movies offered to them the one thing that all great movies should: escapism.
It’s a film that asks big questions of the societal structures/strictures of today. The best part, oddly enough, is when the father himself is interviewed. He plays the failed idealist, the man who wanted to keep his children pure from the influence of religion and politics, philosophy and social pressures.
In a way it’s noble; in another way it’s tragic.
The interesting thing is how, deprived of these everyday facets, the children looked to movies for guidance. The worshipped at the temple of The Dark Knight, and listened to the gospel according to Tarantino.
It’s the story of the Golden Calf, as the Angulo family worships the false deities of cinema. Watch as they bounce around with happiness, delighted that the money from their cinema tickets will go to the actors involved.
It’s strange stuff, indeed, but also quite moving.
The downsides are purely superficial. The tatty clothes and the dirty apartment, the bad skin and greasy hair, all of it can be a bit off-putting. It might seem a little shallow to say, but The Wolfpack isn’t the most attractive documentary.
This visual unsightliness coupled with the haunting ideas at play means The Wolfpack is simply too uncomfortable a watch to ever be considered a five-star film.
But, that said, it’s pretty damn close.
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