Tag Archives: Guillermo Del Toro

Beauty in the beast: Guillermo del Toro on The Shape of Water

13 Feb
screen-shot-2017-09-14-at-9-49-54-am1

Sally Hawkins, as the mute cleaner in a military facility, makes contact with a creature from the deep in The Shape of Water

Pan’s Labyrinth was so exceptional, so unique, you’d think Guillermo del Toro could never again make a film that was its equal. You’d be wrong. The Shape of Water is every bit as beautiful, strange and idiosyncratic, but in tone shows the mellowness of del Toro’s middle age. While Pan’s Labyrinth was primarily about the monstrousness of men, The Shape of Water is more concerned with the humanity in monsters.

I saw the film at a BAFTA screening a few months ago, capped off by a Q&A with del Toro. He said that when he was young, he had terrible waking nightmares in which he would lie frozen in his own bed, seemingly conscious, watching monstrous hands clawing at his bedclothes. He made a pact with those monsters: if they didn’t hurt him, he’d be their friend for life. It’s a relationship he has been investigating throughout his film-making career.

With The Shape of Water specifically, he said the inspiration came from watching Creature From the Black Lagoon as a boy: he loved both monster and damsel in distress, and was heart-broken when they didn’t end up together. The Shape of Water is his attempt to rewrite that history.

As such, it’s not merely about the beauty in the beast, but also a love letter to old Hollywood: that’s one reason why the Academy, which notoriously loves films about itself, has given it 13 Oscar nominations – wildly unusual for a genre film. Sally Hawkins’s character, who is as mute as a silent film star, even lives above an old cinema. There are scenes which nod to old Hollywood song and dance, without quite breaking into outright musical, and its bright colour palette could have been filmed in Technicolor.

As the mute Elisa Esposito, who cleans in a top-secret military facility of the early ‘60s which takes possession of a monster from the deeps, Sally Hawkins is extraordinary. She says more with gesture and look than most actresses manage from screeds of dialogue. In any other year she’d be Oscar’s hottest contender, but Frances McDormand, surely, will take the highest honour for Three Billboards.

The creature is beautifully realised, Richard Giles provides touching support as Esposito’s best friend, Octavia Spencer provides energy and comic relief, and Michael Shannon gives this essentially feelgood tale a heart of darkness as the xenophobic military man obsessed with the Red Menace, his severed fingers rotting along with his soul. But it’s del Toro’s film, and he will surely win best director.

The crew with del Toro at the Q&A clearly loved him: they say he is obsessively knowledgeable about every area of film-making, from cinematography to production design, giving them fully formed ideas which then allow them to concentrate on the extra 10% that would transform a film from great to genius. He even came up with a long-forgotten method for simulating underwater movement which would require no CGI or fancy effects.

Released in the UK on Valentine’s Day, The Shape of Water makes the perfect date movie – because if your partner doesn’t love it, you’ll know they’re probably not the one for you!

Advertisements

Pacific Rim: putting the “armour” into “Armageddon”

13 Jul

Image

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. “Pacific Rim” is not, in fact, a scatalogical sexual practice performed in an extremely calm manner. It is the edges of the Pacific Ocean, which are threatened with annihilation when a gateway opens up underwater to another dimension filled with giant monsters. Oh no! However can Mankind fight back? But of course. WITH GIANT ROBOTS.

It’s basically the climax of Aliens, where Ripley straps on an exo-skeleton and kicks Alien ass, magnified a hundred times and stretched to a whole movie. Or think of it as Godzilla crossed with Transformers, except good. And if that doesn’t strike you as ten shades of awesome, this is definitely not the film for you.

It’s admirably single-minded. There is a love interest; there is family to avenge; there is noble sacrifice. But only up to a point. Guillermo del Toro apparently stripped an hour of character stuff out in the edit, so there are practically no sub-plots or back-story. In one of the film’s many great jokes – albeit one that only scriptwriters are likely to slap their thighs over – the grizzled commander (Idris Elba) snaps, speaking for grizzled commanders in pretty much all movies, “You have NO idea who I am and where I come from, and I’m not about to tell you my whole life story. All I need is to be a fixed point.”

So if you’re expecting character development, or any real plot other than “robots smash!”, you are, as the American expression quaintly has it, s**t out of luck. But if you like some armour in your Armageddon, and if you can hoot at lines such as “Guess who’s back you one-eyed bitch, and you owe me a Kaiju brain!” or “I’m cancelling the Apocalypse!”, Pacific Rim is an instant classic.