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The Jungle Book

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jul 16, 2015

A wonderful children’s movie because, unlike the later and lousy Disney version, nothing’s dumbed down for the audience, the storyteller brackets are intriguing beyond the convention–the least admirable character within the story tells the story!–and the story itself works very nicely; the jungle introduction is a spectacular technicolor showcase, and since it also sets the tone and tones the setting, and since each shot is beautifully composed and cut into the next one, the show-off motivation isn’t in the least troubling, the animals are quite beautifully directed, or at least incorporated, no anthropomorphization (except for the snakes, which are another matter), nor is there subjugation by the human character, and their essential mystery remains, Sabu is a lithe, eroticized presence, and his first entry into the village is particularly pleasing, the raw and the cooked tension is unsurprisingly developed, and the greed and savagery stuff isn’t too new, but neither is greed and savagery, and the gradual descent of the adult humans is very subtly dramatized, and fables for children should be clear, and probable parallels with WW II despots were doubtless intended, and intended to be understood; the barber/priest pairing provides some very able and easy comedy, the Mowgli/Bagheera intercutting is very ingenious, and we simultaneously feel confused like the Calleia character, and delighted like Mowlgli; surprisingly, as the three adults remove themselves from the jungle, the events and the effect prefigure and compete in effectiveness with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, with the very interesting added element of mischievous or even malevolent fate being embodied by Mowgli, the colonized wild child who actually gets the last word