Director: Thomas Balmes
MPAA Rating: (for cultural and maternal nudity throughout)
Running Time: 1:29
Release Date: 5/7/10
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 6, 2010
the tenant of truth in advertising, there are indeed babies in Babies.
They coo and crawl and cry and cuddle with cats. They poo and pee and protest their
playthings. They feed, fight, and frolic. They
gurgle and grow. They are babies
doing the things babies do, and they do those things for 80 minutes.
relies entirely on the cuteness factor of its tiny stars (Even the tagline says
so; after all, "Everybody loves…"), and there's no denying how
adorable the four newborns of the movie are. They come from four different walks of life, or perhaps three if looking
at population factors and only two if observing familial economic status. Director Thomas Balmes' clear intention, through his constant use of
montage, is these kids are really just part of one group, as though we need
reminding that these babies, eliminating the identity of location and class, are
members of the human family.
Ponijao, born in a small village outside of Opuwo, Namibia.
grows up in bustling Tokyo.
is raised on a farm outside of Bayanchandmani, Mongolia.
lives in San Francisco.
other information one might like to find out about them, such as, for example,
that Ponijao and her family are members of the Himba tribe or that Hattie's
parents consider themselves green (as in ecologically aware, not new, although
both are technically true), can be found at the movie's website. Balmes isn't preoccupied with concepts like
context. After all, there are all these lovable moments to capture.
has assembled little more than a well-edited collection of home videos, without
the enjoyment/annoyance of constant parental commentary. There are collages of the mothers feeding their children, the little ones
dozing off in different circumstances, and the families' cats (Was part of
Balmes' "audition" for expectant mothers the requirement that the
family have a cat?) undergoing various humiliations at the babies' curious hands.
One strange juxtaposition
shows Mari, Bayar, and Hattie playing with felines before cutting to Ponijao
playing with flies. It's an odd cut
because Ponijao later plays with one of the dogs in the village, which makes the
selected footage for the family pet segment (cat, cat, cat, flies) feel false.
process of bringing these four new lives together implies a broader concept than
the resulting compilation projects. If
this is, as it obviously is, a visual argument for the oneness of humanity in
our first year (and hence a need for recognizing the unity of human beings in
all the years that follow), the movie is too narrow in scope. Two toddlers from urban areas and two not, three girls and one boy, and
entire continents unrepresented do not portray an accurate representation of all
the wide social, economic, and terrestrial diversity the planet and its
inhabitants have to offer.
on that larger view simply because of its admittedly monumental difficulty, the
only thing left are the smaller moments. The
stars undergo an observable amount of development over the course of this year
condensed to an hour and twenty minutes. Mari
examines a puzzle toy and becomes frustrated (inconsolably so) when the pieces
don't fit together. Bayar learns the
hard way about an older brother's persecution. Hattie rebels against her father's attempt to bring her into a New Age
day camp by running for the door, only to find she's too short to open it. Ponijao learns the difference between girls and
boys. The movie refuses to end until all four take their first, unassisted
flashes of growth on a psychological, emotional, and physical level and Balmes'
understanding of their importance by letting the shot go on past the
identification of a cute behavior show what the movie could have been on a
smaller scale. As it stands, though,
the larger implications require that such activities be repeated by the other
subjects, losing the sense of individual growth.
Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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