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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.