Del Toro. It may take another 10-15 years for everyone else to catch up but we’re witnessing something here with Cuaron, Inarritu and del Toro. These three Mexican auteurs are Truffaut/Godard/Varda or Herzog/Fassbinder/Wenders for the 21st century. They won 5 of the 10 best director Oscars in the 2010’s. Del Toro’s strengths are that he’s a style-plus auteur and has a one of the best films in back to back decades- the 2000’s and 2010’s. The images below would indicate I owe both Crimson Peak and The Devil’s Backbone a closer look and reconsideration as well.
Best film: Pan’s Labyrinth
- It is eerily similar to The Shape of Water– the mark of an auteur- tragically sad, a meditation on escapism
- The performances are great—Maribel Verdu from Y Tu Mama Tambien– Sergi Lopez as Vidal “You may think I’m a monster”— He’s Michael Shannon in Shape– — and to me the top prize goes to Ivana Baquero as the young Ofella- so genuine
- Ebert called it “one of the all-time great fantasy films” while rallying for and praising the Mexican new wave auteurs like del Toro, Cuaron and Inarritu
- Jaded adults and realism (with some unspeakable evils)—del toro does lessen the blow of the finale with the escapism finish—it’s just like shape of water finale
- a baroque melding of worlds- black-heavy mise-en-scene- lots of greens on Ofelia as well but it isn’t quite as painterly (especially the non-labyrinth scenes) as Shape of Water. I think the narrative is stronger though
- fable and fairy table—Alice is clearly an influence, surrealism of David Lynch, Night of the Hunter with the point of view of the children to a wildly sadistic killer—I see Fanny and Alexander with the evil step father and there’s Cinderella of course there as well.
- mise en scene brilliance throughout but particularly in the cave of the Pale Man- immaculate
- it’s dark- both in visual shading and mood—clearly defined good and evil
- begins with flashback reverse photography then prologue opening of fable
- fascism—political just like shape of water– Escapism- She reads books, reads them to her little brother in the womb (who she sacrifices for)
- the labyrinth is gorgeous and the singularly most brilliant image is Ophelia entering that tree
total archiveable films: 6
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Pan’s Labyrinth)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water)
most overrated: Nothing here for del Toro. He only has one film in the TSPDT top 1000 and it’s Pan’s Labyrinth at #541. I have it at #281 but 541 is really good for a film as recent as 2006.
most underrated: I’m actually going to go with The Shape of Water here. It is #11 of 2017 on TSPDT and that’s off. There’s no way there are more than 5 better films from 2017. If you have it at #11 you’re focusing far too much on the narrative and not enough on the visuals.
The Shape of Water
- It’s a blend of many films and influences (del Toro is a notorious cinephile– Hawkins’ character’s apartment is even directly above a movie theater) but, clearly, a work that only del Toro could come up with. It, quite brilliantly, has his stamp all over it. There are archetypes and genre-blending but it’s never a copy or a genre film (aside from his own genre which almost all great auteurs create).
- Influences include 50’s sci-fi (creature from the black lagoon of course), Tim Burton (sort of a modernized gothic expressionism), Wes Anderson (that décor and color pattern could almost be out of grand Budapest), films like Dick Tracy, Amelie, from and Cocteau’s surrealist beauty and the beast (1946)
- I like the performances (they’re all good but I do think Hawkins is the standout), the screenplay is creative but not one of the best of the year, make no mistake about it, the reason it’s one of the best films of 2017 and will go down as such is the production design. It’s a visual feast in every single scene—incredibly detailed and choreographed almost
- Nods to silent cinema with Hawkins, fairy tales, but it’s sexualized and clearly not just a child’s film
- The ending and relationship almost couldn’t have more in common with pan’s labyrinth. It’s tragically sad (there’s a bit of an upbeat tick here at the end) but it’s almost as if Ofelia from Pan’s (Ivana Baquero) grew up to become Hawkins and fell in love with the monster. Instead of the Spanish civil war in Pan’s we have the cold war here as a backdrop. Michael Shannon plays the Sergi Lopez “Vidal” character and even Doug Jones is back as the monster
- Teal galore—– even the key-lime pie– visual formal beauty and rigor—we have countless picture frame artwork-worthy mise-en-scene shots and every poster, piece of furniture and clothing accessory is painstakingly picked and designed
- Confident it isn’t a masterpiece after two viewings
- We have formal elements in the story- the eggs, the sex, the movie/escapism/surrealism moments
- It’s hard to accomplish but it’s so clearly the work of an expert craftsman (it cuts on a dime, and it’s impeccably detailed) and eccentrically personal
- Richard Jenkins has been good before but at age 70, I think it’s clearly his best work to date- many of the best scenes (both poignant and comic) involve him
- one of the handful of best original scores from the great Alexandre Desplat– an Academy
- Award win for him
- there’s a film in the foreground and another in the background for seasoned cinephiles- we have lighting detail, rain detail in the mise-en-scene, even something as small and minute as a salt and pepper shaker at the table isn’t white, or black, but a translucent teal color
- i think it’s underrated by many because it cute– it is a fable– there’s not a real edge here
- fantastic silhouette closing image- masterful
- Must-See level film- top 5 of the year quality
gem I want to spotlight: Crimson Peak. I’ll get to it more in stylistic innovations/traits but there’s one solid film going on here in the foreground and a breathtaking work of art in the background here with the mise-en-scene and production design.
stylistic innovations/traits: Del Toro is a master of mise-en-scene. He doesn’t move the camera like Cuaron or Inarritu but his work in color, shadow and production design is as good (Cuaron) or better (Inarritu). Del Toro is a renowned cinephile- influenced by everyone from Wiene/Murnau and the early German expressionists to the science fiction B movies of the 1950’s. I feel David Lynch’s surrealism and maybe a tad of Burton’s (they’re actually close to contemporaries) gothic worldview. Fairy tales, escapism, and the outsider is important to del Toro. He believes in a pretty clearly defined good (child or child-like traits) and evil (usually connected to authority or government).
- Pan’s Labyrinth
- The Shape of Water
- The Devil’s Backbone
- Crimson Peak
- Hellboy II
By year and grades
|2001- The Devil’s Backbone
|2006- Pan’s Labyrinth
|2008- Hellboy II
|2015- Crimson Peak
|2017- The Shape of Water
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives