|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 26, 2013 at 3:00 PM|
LITTLE FUGITIVE ***1/2
Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin
IDEA: Tricked into thinking he's killed his brother, 7-year-old Joey runs away to Coney Island, where a life of hotdogs, cotton candy, carousels, and pony rides awaits him.
BLURB: Without any doubt, Little Fugitive is one of the purest, most authentic evocations of a child’s-eye view ever put to screen, as well as one of the most distinctive American films of the 1950s. Independently financed and produced with a cast made up of a few children and a couple of nameless adults, this is essentially Italian neorealism transplanted to the other side of the Atlantic. Richie Andrusco, as the pint-sized lad who we follow for most of the picture, is a genuine source of wonder: watching him react to the myriad curiosities of the world, and then watching him make his own impressions on that world, is by turns hilarious, poignant, and thrilling. Engel’s camera, often concealed, picks up the boy’s actions with a documentary-like spontaneity. His frames are pure poetry, gritty street photography made rapturous. And what better place to study the head-rush of juvenile delight, awe, and vulnerability than at the buzzing carnival of Coney Island? The long, wordless sections in which we observe the boy devour a supersized slice of watermelon or hurl himself around a batting cage feel immortal even as they’re still occurring. Although the resolution to what little story there is isn’t quite satisfactory, the images and feelings of this innocent childhood sojourn are indelible – captures of a time, place, and way of being long gone, forever etched into cinematic eternity.