Friday

Pan's Labyrinth

There's a distinct lack of truly creative fantasy movies out there, but a hopeful sign, for me, is the new film by Guillermo Del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro, who made the Hellboy movie, has an impeccable sense of style in the fantasy/horror genre, that, at present anyway, puts him ahead of Terry Gilliam on my list favorite directors. The film is also being co-produced with Alfonso Cuaron, who directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and has Doug Jones (Abe Sapien from Hellboy) playing the role of Pan. Pan's Labyrinth is a fantasy movie with an interesting twist: it's set completely in Spain just after the Spanish Civil war. I'm pretty sure it doesn't come down on Franco's side, but the historical context is a great idea and provides some wicked juxtapositioning. The movie is also entirely in Spanish (with subtitles), Del Toro's native language, which gives it an even greater sense of authenticity. I'm a little hazy on the story, but it has something to do with a girl finding her way down into an imaginary underground Labyrinth (a la Alice in Wonderland) ruled by the god Pan, where he sets her three tasks to accomplish, in order to bring the magical realm back into the waking world. It's also interwoven with the above-ground story of her adoptive father, who is in the army and hunting rebels. The movie is running with the tagline "Innocence has a power evil cannot imagine," which sounds like a nice change from the usual themes of horror movies, though it's unclear whether Pan or the Spanish Government is the evil being refered to. What I absolutely love about Del Toro is not only his sense of Gothic design (always more interesting than Burton's spindly twistedness) but also his dedication to making extremely original stories, and his unhesitating use of prosthetics and physical models over CGI. Pan's Labyrinth has already been selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and ought to be out in the US by December 29th. It is rated R, but early reports say that the rating is for realistic war violence. Click on the picture to go to the website, where you can also see the awesome trailer, and go here for some clips. Pan's Labyrinth currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

2 comments:

Father Barry said...

Taking a shot at Burton's "spindly twistedness," while also praising Terry Gilliam and Del Toro? That's making great use of your post, Ben. Multi-tasking at its finest.

Have you seen The Devil's Backbone? Similar historical context, if I understand the blurb correctly. It has his trademark horror/fantasy thumbprint, as well as a suggestion or two about what side of the Spanish Civil War issue Guillermo would adopt.

And your comment about Del Toro's "unhesitating use of prosthetics and physical models over CGI" is dead-on. Hellboy suffered a bit from the "excessive CGI" bug towards the end, but mostly because the contrast was so striking. I wonder how much of it was connected to "big-budgetitis."

Here's hoping Del Toro keeps himself in the "smaller, gothicier" vein. That's where he's at his best.

Ben said...

Thanks! Haven't seen Devil's Backbone, but I have heard that it's good, and as I'm getting into Del Toro now, I figure it ought to be on my to-see list. If only I can et my sister to rent it on Netflix...

We actually saw the Director's Cut of Hellboy while we were at the shelter during the evacuation, and yeah, it does get a bit special effectsy at the end, but then it would be REALLY hard to make the giant Lovecaftian god-thing a puppet. He just seems to use prosthetics whereever it's practical. And it always ends up looking better. Samael in that movie is, for the most part, a guy in a suit, but people who don't know that just think it's really awesome CGI.

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