The Wolfpack (2015; Crystal Moselle)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens today at the Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco, the Landmark Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley, and the Regency in San Rafael.
Many hardcore cinephiles are socially maladroit misfits, and many more behave as though they learned how to talk and act through the movies. However, the six long-haired Angulo brothers took the socializing influence of film to a whole new level.
Home-schooled and shut off from the world by their abusive and overly protective “free spirit” father, the Angulo brothers (and their one mostly offscreen sister) spent most of their lives locked in a Lower East side Manhattan apartment. Movies offered the boys their only pipeline to the outside world. They would obsess over their favorite films, staging elaborate recreations using homemade costumes and props. Their childhood development patterns were akin to Nell with a VHS collection. Even in their talking-head interviews, the boys seem to slip in and out of character, trying on different accents and affectations.
It’s telling that their first tentative steps into the outside world come while wearing matching Reservoir Dogs shades and skinny ties. Director Crystal Moselle gained remarkable access, both to the Angulo boys and to their library of home movies. Still, The Wolfpack is primarily the triumph of a fascinating subject over a pedestrian treatment. You get the feeling that potentially troubling cards were held under the table to keep the Angulo story strictly inspirational. Meanwhile, the link between cinephilia and learned behavior gets explored on a superficial level.