Godard 21's Cinephile journal

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pan's Labyrinth review and new trailer

After much procrastination, here is my Pan's Labyrinth review:

Set in the years following the Spanish Civil war, Pan's Labyrinth, the new Mexican fantasy film of Guillermo Del Toro (The Devil's Backbone, Hellboy)explores a child's entry into a fantastic realm as a means to escape the turbulent times in fascist Spain. This film is Mexico's entry for the Best Foreign film Academy Award. Amidst sporadic outbursts of guerilla warfare from the remaining rebels, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero)and her pregnant mother, Carmen,(Ariadna Gil)arrive at a military outpost under the command of the monstrous and overtly patriarchal Captain Vidal (Sergi López), Ofelia's new stepfather, where Ofelia meets the friendly Mercedes (Maribel Verdú), one of Vidal's female servants. In this secluded location in the woods, Ofelia wanders off from the stringent authority of the adult and meets a magical faun named Pan, played by Doug Jones, under much makeup and costume work, who promises her entry into a magical kingdom if she can fulfill three tests.

While the film initially appears to conform to certain cinematic formulas,the film gradually moves away from them and becomes a darker fantasy tale than viewers are accustomed to. Captain Vidal, the true monster of the film initially appears like a villainous caricature, but he is developed enough throughout the course of the film to dispel this image. However, even if he is close to becoming a formulaic villain, most fantasy films are built upon such bipolar foundations and thus such a villain is to be expected. In addition, Sergi Lopez, who plays him, embraces the character's villainy and suits the role perfectly while adequately conveying his obsessive desire to perpetuate a patriarchal lineage as well as his cold, mechanical, and heartless demeanor which is fueled by the orderly nature of fascism and authoritarianism (which is in direct opposition to the imaginative faculty of Ofelia).

As Ofelia,a highly imaginative child (somewhat akin to Lewis Carroll's Alice, but not quite), Ivana Baquero is able to adequately convey both the initial innocence and the later strength of her character as well as her isolation in the corrupt adult world emerging out of fascism. Similarly,both Maribel Verdú, who plays Mercedes, and Ariadna Gil, as Carmen, deliver respectable performances alongside Baquero and Lopez.

Aside from the film's performances, the film's visuals also do not disappoint and Del Toro makes conservative use of CGI as opposed to the computer animated excess of other fantasy films like the films from the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series (Let's not forget the Chronicles of Narnia). The costume work behind Pan and the flesh-eating creature known as Pale Face is flawless.

Although the film may not meet the high expectations formed after the 15-20 minute standing ovations received at the Venice and Toronto film festivals, it remains one of the most interesting fantasy films of the last five years (or more). More importantly, unlike most fantasy films, Pan's Labyrinth is an original fantasy tale which is not adapted from any other literary source and, for some reason, this fact only contributes to make the film a welcomed alternative to the rehashed storylines of most recent fantasy epics (and films in general).

Well, that is my review. I will update later this week.

New Trailer

Here is a trailer for the upcoming biopic of the famous children's author Beatrix Potter, Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.

Miss Potter


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