Fuse #8

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth - One Take

The advantage of living in New York is that when a new bright n' shiny film comes out that happens to get a 99% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, you're in the right city to go out and see it. Husband of mine suggested we watch this lauded beauty and I, having duly read enough reviews to know what I was getting into, agreed. Off we set to the Loew's at Union Square and the theater was packed to brimming. Now the movie was gorgeous, through and through. I loved it, brutal, violent, and downright bloody as it was. My husband, on the other hand, disliked it intensely. Just as I like to avoid reading book reviews until after I've read a novel, he likes to avoid reading movie reviews until after he's seen a film. He went in expecting what he saw in the movie's trailer (which is to say, a delightful fairy story). What he got was torture, pain, and people getting their faces removed by the ends of broken bottles.

The film, in case you haven't heard of it, is the tale of a girl by the name of Ofelia. Her mother has just married an officer in Spain and, badda boom, we are right smack dab in the center of 1944 fascism. As Ofelia starts spiraling into a dreamworld entirely of her own, the landscape around her grows more dangerous and unpredictable with every day. Reality and fantasy intertwine until Ofelia distinguish the "real" from what is in her mind.

Obviously, I was drawn to the kidlit references sprinkled merrily about this film. Ofelia meets a faun in the center of an old labyrinth hidden behind her stepfather's home. Unfortunately for me I couldn't help but shake a line from The New Yorker review of the film that mentioned that, "He bears about as much resemblance to Mr. Tumnus, his fellow-hybrid from the pages of C.S. Lewis, as the late Jack Palance bore to Woody Allen." Then the references start coming hard. An insect that becomes a fairy? Felt like Spiderwick to me (though Spiderwick does it better). A man who carries around a clock, fixed meticulously after it marked the hour of his father's death? Fear of time = Peter Pan. There's Ofelia's party dress that looks like a green version of Alice and ends with a trip down a hole (for a toad rather than a rabbit). And tropes like drawing a door in chalk and walking through it, never eating delicious food from a bountiful spread, or selecting which of the three offered doors hides the prize. And then there are the classic fairy tale creatures, like the faun and the mandrake root (oh, that poor little mandrake), that are realized so beautifully on the film. The CGI is often perfect. I could watch that faun forever.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, I'd seen Hellboy before, so the violence was expected. From reviews I knew that there would be a torture scene shortly before a rainfall, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the director would cut away so that you never actually witness anything but psychological torture most of the time. I mean, a guy might sew his own cheek up, but at least he's doing that to himself. There is gore, no question, and a person would do well to walk into this film knowing that. My husband felt that the book glorified the very violence it was aiming to condemn, and you could make a case for that. Is this yet another example of our gradual numbing towards films of violence? A lot of reviews allude to the blood, but few think it excessive.

There was also some interesting Catholic imagery throughout the movie, particularly in one of the final scenes. Was that a good idea or a bad one? Husband and I also had a brief debate over whether or not you could see this as a coming of age film, but it doesn't really apply. Plus I couldn't really discuss that aspect with you without giving away the ending as well.

Monica Edinger had her own look at the film in her piece Lyra, Ofelia, and Alice that, fortunately for me, I read before seeing the movie. Cinematical had some input as well. I'd love to hear what the kidlit community thinks of this puppy, but I may just have to wait until it gets a national release before that happens.


At 6:27 AM , Blogger Monica Edinger said...

I highly recommend tracking down Philip Pullman's lengthy response to my child_lit post of December 31st on this film in the archives (for subscribers only at: https://email.rutgers.edu/mailman/listinfo/child_lit
He really nails some very fundamental problems with the film (and also clarifies many of the films references --- e.g. one is a Goya painting).

At 12:11 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Insofar as I could tell, I didn't have to log onto Child_Lit to read Pullman's very intelligent comments. They are so good, in fact, that I wish he'd put them on his website. In any case, I'll link to them tomorrow. I avoided the child_lit discussion before I saw the film, but know I want to discuss this with somebody ASAP.

At 12:28 PM , Blogger Monica Edinger said...

So answer him on child_lit. He clearly wants a discussion too! So do I, but so far there's only been Philip, Farah, and me.

And how do you link to a child_lit post? I thought that they weren't accessible to non subscribers. Yikes.

At 1:08 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Yup. Just went to the page you listed, clicked on the Archives link, and batta boom. Instant access. I don't think this computer already logged me in either since I've a new one now.

I'll try to answer him, certainly. Is the thread still going?

At 3:12 PM , Blogger Monica Edinger said...

I have to tell you, I let Michael know how you accessed the archives and he wrote back, "not anymore." It is really important to keep the archives private. It is a private list, for subscribers, you really should not be able to link to it if you are not subscribed. Sorry! But you could either asked if it was okay to quote liberally from Philip's post, get him to stick it on his website, or just urge people to join child_lit. You can always set it to NOMAIL and just go to the archives as you wish.

At 7:02 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Ah well. I'll ask Mr. Pullman then.

At 9:16 PM , Blogger Dan McCoy said...

If he was reading pre-reviews, didn't he realize that the movie would have horror movie elements to it? Hell, just the name Guillermo Del Toro should've tipped that off. Then again, he hates horror in general, so perhaps he'd have disliked it without the problem of expectations.

I haven't seen it yet, myself -- Mr. Wellington went without me, and I'm sorry that we were too tired to come out with you guys on Friday. But I'm very much looking forward to it.

If you folks go see Children of Men, let me know.

At 9:27 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

You are referring to my husband and not Mr. Pullman, I take it. I don't think he read any pre-reviews. But it wasn't the horror that turned him off necessarily but the sheer level of realistic violence. Horror is one thing. Realism another entirely.

Yeah, we figured you guys wouldn't join us when Sarah wrote me back saying you had a Fresh Direct delivery that night. Now, seriously. You set up a delivery for Friday night? You and Sarah are true party animals. So how is it that you were ordering in your groceries at a time when you should have been downing delicious thick juicy burgers with Matt, Geoff, and myself by Union Square?

Geoff says that Dreamgirls is good, by the way. You wanna see that? I dunno if I'm up for Children of Men quite yet.

At 11:21 PM , Blogger alvinaling said...

I just saw this tonight, and thought it was absolutely amazing, compelling, moving, beautiful.

At 10:26 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Listen, you old cowhand, howzabout that new Clint Eastwood with Ken Watanabe? I'm not avoiding Children of Men for any particular reason. I just know nothing about it, and learning something new would require walking AT LEAST 2 steps backwards to the breakfast table where the Entertainment Weekly is sitting. Good God, man, do I look like I'm made out of TIME?

At 10:32 AM , Blogger alvinaling said...

Oh, I meant to also way that I saw CHILDREN OF MEN last week, and thought I'd love it, and instead was kinda "eh" about it. Clive Owens is fabulous, it was certainly interesting to watch and thought-provoking, but the symbolism was over-the-top, and I had so many believability issues with it, and most of all, I thought they explained too much. It certainly was no BLADE RUNNER.

At 11:01 AM , Blogger Dan McCoy said...

The Onion chose Children of Men as its film of the year. Likewise Slate. And you try to sell me on Clint "I made Million Dollar Baby" Eastwood? For shame.

And not to start a flame war, but for me it not being Blade Runner would be a rousing endorsement. Pretty pitchers in that film, but man was it slow and heavy-handed. I say Ridley Scott never made a great film after Alien, and I'm sticking to it.

At 1:37 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Ah! Thank you, Alvina. This is good to know. Matt wants to see Children of Men too, but it's good to get the perspective of someone who's already seen it. Particularly someone with a similar set of chromosomes to myself. Would a person who wasn't a Clive Owen fan enjoy the film at all?

And I, for one, am admittedly a fangirl of Blade Runner. He peaked with that film, man. He peaked! And you don't like Aliens? Really? Really really? Does Stuart know?

At 2:26 PM , Blogger alvinaling said...

I haven't seen BLADE RUNNER in a long time, so I can't really argue, although I do remember liking it and thinking it was more...subtle, I'll say. Then again, if you say it was heavy-handed, I could be remembering wrong. But BLADE RUNNER comparison aside, I stick to my opinion--and would also say that CHILDREN OF MEN was very heavy-handed. I saw the movie with two men and two women (and me). The two women didn't enjoy it all that much, and also found the symbolism almost laughable (there's a boat in the movie that symbolizes hope for the future of mankind, and the boat is called The Tomorrow!), but the two guys really enjoyed it. And I was somewhere in between. I think a non-Clive Owen fan could like it, but perhaps not if you hated him, since he's pretty much in every scene. Fuse, are you saying you don't like Clive Owen?!?

Anyway, I do think it's worth seeing, but I don't agree with all the hype it's getting. Then again, it could once again be about expectations for me. I had super high expectations for the movie, and they weren't met.

At 2:40 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I don't hate the man, but I sort of see him as a great big slab o' meat with a nice accent and some acting chops. He was in that Denzel Washington heist film and was fine if not extraordinary. My final opinion: eh. Just, eh. I'll probably end up seeing it in any case.

At 10:14 AM , Blogger Dan McCoy said...

If you don't like Clive Owen, you've seen him in the wrong films.

And, yeah, I love Aliens... but that was directed by James Cameron.


Kisses, Dan

At 12:54 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Awww, SNAP!! Good call. For that I owe you a bottle of wine.

By the by... don't see the 1967 Casino Royale. EVER.


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