Wednesday, April 30, 2014

PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006) movie review

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) d. Guillermo del Toro (Spain)

Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) whose father had died, leaving her and her Mother (Ariadna Gil) all alone. The world was a dark and scary place, with war and death everywhere, and so, to save herself and her child, the Mother remarried a General (Sergi Lopez) to keep them safe. But the General was a selfish and brutal man, who only cared for the Mother as long as she could bear him a son. Once the Mother as with child, the General sent for her to live with him in the forest where he commanded his troops, stamping out the rebels that threatened the Evil King’s power. The Mother was sad, as was Ofelia, but the imaginative young girl had a special gift: she could see and talk to creatures that grown-ups couldn’t see, such as the Faun and the Pale Man (both played brilliantly by expert suit performer Doug Jones). She soon learned from the Faun that she was a Princess with a Destiny to fulfill.  And so, her great adventure began....

Upon revisiting del Toro’s metaphorical masterpiece combining dark real-world horror (Franco’s civil war-torn Spain) with children’s fantasy, I was more than a little saddened to realize that this, his last great movie, was released nearly a decade ago. I won’t pretend to know what goes on in the Hollywood hills, much less what went down with Peter Jackson and The Hobbit crew, but it seems clear that whether directing (Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone) or producing (The Orphanage, Biutiful, Julia’s Eyes), the Mexican-born monster kid continues to do his best work in his native language. As diverting and visually imaginative as his Hollywood popcorn efforts like Pacific Rim and the Hellboy movies are, they lack the heart, depth, and intellect of his more “personal” films.

While I understand the graphic violence is important for the story at hand, there were times that I wished that it had been handled less explicitly, in order that the film could be seen by a wider (i.e. younger) audience. But this is a minor, minor quibble for what is an incredible cinematic experience, with astonishing production/set design by Eugenio Caballero and Pilar Revuelta, Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography, and David Marti and Montse Ribe’s breathtaking makeup designs, earning them Oscars in their respective fields.

Though all the actors acquit themselves admirably, special notice must be given to Maribel Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Blancanieves) as the duplicitous housemaid, Lopez’s human monster, and Baquero, whose guileless central performance anchors the picture.

A unequivocal must-see. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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