Wonderstruck – ***1/2 out of ****
Director –writer-Todd Haynes (“Carol”, “Far from Heaven”) has teamed up again with the collaborative and legendary DP, Edward Lachman, to bring to the screen Brian Selznick’s(who also wrote the screenplay) young adult novel about two 12year-olds , Ben (Oakes Fegley)and Rose(Millicent Simmonds) both deaf, living 50 years apart , and, both sneaking off to New York City to locate an absent parent. We must note that it is rare for a Hollywood film to star an actress who cannot hear. The last deaf person who starred in a Hollywood film was Marlee Matlin who won the Oscar for her role in “Children of a Lesser God” some 30 years ago.
One story, from 1927, is in black and white and a silent film, while the other depicts a more contemporary milieu of its 1970s setting in vibrant color and sound. Lachman’s forty plus years of cinematography and artistic endeavors such as still photography bring to light the complex systems that link the story of the two children He shot the film in Super 35mm and had to specially order the black and white stock.
Screenwriter/film critic Larry Gross writing a tweet storm about ‘Starstruck” in Filmmaker Magazine notes “Director/DP alliances help shape film history—Griffith/Bitzer, Eisenstein/Tisse, Vigo/Kaufman, Bergman/Nykvist. Great directors necessarily find their essential partner. In contemporary American cinema there are Van Sant/Savides, Coens/Deakins, P.T. Andersen/Elswit to compare with Haynes/Lachman.”
In a great director/DP alliance the partners push each other to try new things. “Wonderstruck” takes Haynes interest in using the idiom of film history further and Lachman gets it.
Full disclosure: Ed Lachman and Larry Gross are both friends of mine. So I will end the piece with one more tweet from Larry: “The final sequence in “Wonderstruck” causes you to review and revise all things you’ve seen in the film until then, and it has the same relationship to Haynes’s career”. Both Lachman and Haynes have made bourgeois repression seductively beautiful.
The scene in the Natural History Museum in which both children place a tiny hopeful hand on the ancient meteorite is heartbreaking. “Wonderstruck” is that rare art-house movie that will leave you in a magical frame of mind.