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28 January, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

I think it's crazy to see two totally different Oscar-nominated films on the same day, but that's exactly what we did.

First, we saw Pan's Labyrinth at the theater. I was looking forward to seeing this movie from director Guillermo del Toro, one of the three current wunderboys of Mexican cinema. Described as an adult fairy tale, it was about a girl who created her own enchanted world in the midst of post-civil war Spain.

The movie was a fairy tale alright, but a fairy tale in the traditional meaning of the word: sinister, foreboding and downright scary. It was much darker and intense than I expected, with some gruesome moments of physical violence. Even the girl's fantasy world was no pastel rainbows, reflecting instead the brutal reality that surrounded her. This is definitely no Harry Potter and definitely not a film for young kids.

As unsettling as it was, however, the movie's mixture of cruelty and magical realism is what captivated me up to its tragic end. You know how certain movies stay with you long after you've seen it? This was that kind of movie.

Some notables:

• Captain Vidal, a villain so vicious and cruel he makes Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) in Schindler's List look almost tame in comparison. The character was played by Sergi López who also played Juan, the sleazy bellhop captain in 2002's Dirty Pretty Things which starred Audrey Tautou;

• The young heroine Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), whose wide-eyed vulnerability and courage just makes you want to scoop her up to some place safe;

• The Pale Man (Doug Jones, who also played the Faun), a child-devouring creature in Ofelia's fantasy world that could easily be the successor to Pinhead's throne in everyone's nightmares;

• The excellent cinematography; and

• The outstanding screenplay, spoken in such beautiful Spanish it made me want to learn the language all over again.

Guillermo del Toro's interview on NPR's Fresh Air is here.

A Youtube video of the movie trailer is here.

A review of the second film we saw, Little Miss Sunshine, is next.

posted at 1:42 AM by City Muse


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