1.11.2007

Genre Works for Guillermo del Toro, But Limits Alfonso Cuaron

Jonathan Rosenbaum reviews Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men together, saying "In Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro makes genre work for him. In Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron lets it get in his way."

"Pan's Labyrinth is a fairy tale for grown-ups throughout, even though it maintains a child's simple view of good and evil. It shuttles back and forth between fascist Spain and a child's imagination as if those realms were interchangeable -- and even containable within the same shot. Like Pere Portabella's Cuadecuc-Vampir (1970) and Victor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive (1973), this film perceives horror traditionally, as something derived from gothic novels and ultimately the Middle Ages. The horror here, linked to both these traditions, is Franco's fascism, the villain the fascist captain, who roots out, tortures, and kills Republicans. He's far more frightening than the Dracula of Cuadecuc-Vampir or the Frankenstein of The Spirit of the Beehive, though Ofelia's fantasies certainly have their creepy and grisly moments. The horror of the captain ultimately trumps any she can imagine, because he seems more real and more metaphysical -- the menace he conveys seems to infect the universe. The only equivalent rendering of a child's perception of terror that comes to mind is Robert Mitchum's psychopathic preacher in The Night of the Hunter. This is a metaphysical vision, shot through with poetry, and unlike the visions in Babel and Children of Men, it doesn't predetermine anything."
[ Chicago Reader]

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