Guillermo Del Toro (or Billy the Bull as I like to call him) is one of several brilliant talents in a remarkable current Mexican wave that includes Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) and writer Guillermo Arriaga (Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada). Alternating between Hollywood franchises like Blade II and Hellboy and more personal work he possesses the richest visual imagination of the group, and it is all on vivid display in Pan’s Labyrinth.
Like he did in the great The Devil’s Backbone in 2001, Del Toro tells the story of a child caught up in the horrors of Spain’s Civil War, escaping into a world of fantasy that may be more dangerous than the terrifying real world outside. Pan’s Labyrinth is completely brilliant on every level.
For more from Latin America check out the 6th Latin American Film Festival from April 19 at Rialto.
The best bits of Mr Bean’s Holiday have all appeared in other films, but I’m less upset about it than I would normally be. After all, how many eight year olds are going to get dragged along to a Jacques Tati film these days and a cinema education has to start somewhere. Bean wins a holiday in France (and a handicam) in a church raffle and, of course, causes mild inoffensive havoc everywhere he goes.
On his travels he meets a French actress played by Emma De Caunes who, coincidentally, is the daughter of Antoine De Caunes who wrote and directed Twice Upon A Time which stars Jean Rochefort who also has a cameo in Mr Bean’s Holiday. Coincidences are everywhere this week. In Twice Upon A Time Rochefort plays Louis Ruinard, a film director and former paramour of legendary English actress Alice D’Abanville played by Charlotte Rampling. He discovered her back in the 70s and their passionate romance fuelled their successful art. Inexplicably, to him, she left him in 1975 and retired from cinema to devote herself to theatre and marry effete English aristocrat Evelyn Gaylord (a tired looking Ian Richardson). The question is, does she still really love him even after 30 years? Well, duh.
The usually brilliant Edward Norton gets an acting lesson from Paul Giamatti (Sideways) in The Illusionist. Norton plays a stage magician in fin-de-siecle Vienna, trying to save the love of his life (Jessica Biel) from the clutches of dastardly moustache-twirler Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). Giammatti is Inspector Uhl, Chief of Police and top spy for the Prince, and his job is to be fooled by the mysterious prestidigitator which he does more than capably.
Sneaking into theatres this week is the excellent Breaking and Entering, written and directed by Anthony Minghella, coming back down to human scale after the epic Cold Mountain. He’s still casting Jude Law, though, and Law repays the favour with his best performance in years. Law plays Will Francis, a landscape architect redeveloping the blighted Kings Cross area of London, a stranger camped out in a sort of refugee Wild West under the radar of the middle classes.
But it’s a film about the relationships between people, more than the economics that keep them apart, and on that level it is endlessly fascinating. While a final plot twist might lay it on a little thick, there’s usually plenty of truth supporting the intelligent script and generous direction. Highly recommended.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday, 4 April, 2007.