Friday, January 22, 2010

Pan's Labyrinth

(Movie Review)

This is a movie that's been on my list for sometime. It's been highly recommended to me by just about everyone I know. And I also enjoyed "Hellboy" and "Hellboy 2" by the same director.

I waited to see this movie, because I wanted to watch it on a DVD that had English subtitles. All the DVDs in Japan only had Japanese subtitles, making it hard to watch foreign films.

Not that I couldn't have struggled through. I've watched foreign films like "Black Book" or "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" in Japanese. But I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. So I waited until I was back in the US to see this one.

(Sorry, I know my linguistic difficulties in watching these films is of interest to no one but myself. Onto the review).

Like I said, this film has been highly praised by just about everyone I know, including friends much smarter than me whose opinions I greatly respect. Bork, for instance, recommended this film to me. And I understand Phil thinks highly enough of it that he even shows it to his Freshman English class.
Not to mention all the professional movie critics who have lavishly praised this film.

So there's not a lot for me to add here. It is a great film. The fantasy parts of it are beautifully done, and draw you completely into the fairy-tale world.

The historical parts of it are also very well done. As a history geek, the Spanish Civil War is an area - of - interest - to - me. But actually this film takes place in 1944, after the Civil War is over, and the Spanish Maquis is left fighting the fascist forces.

I knew nothing about the Spanish Maquis before seeing this film, but after watching the film my interest was sparked and afterwards I spent some time reading up on them via wikipedia (article here) and some other interenet sources.
And that's really what a good historical movie should do. They can't teach you a lot in 2 hours, but they can excite your interest and cause you to want to learn more on your own.

Finally, this film is quite powerful emotionally without ever resorting to sappiness.
A common complaint I have against a lot of Hollywood movies is that they work too hard to try and manipulate my emotions, but in this case everything comes naturally from the story.

So, yeah, it's a great film, just like everyone told me it would be. Not a lot to add here.

....Well, alright, if you want to get greedy, I guess you could lament that the story doesn't do more.
The idea of mixing in fantasy elements into a historical narrative is genius. (I'm sure there's a technical literary type word for this type of genre, but I don't know what it is.)
However, both stories in and of themselves are pretty thin. I'm not sure if the historical part of the movie is meant as a padding for the fantasy section, or the fantasy part is meant to pad out the historical sections. But there were times I wished the story had more meat to it.
The fantasy elements had a lot of great visuals, but the actual story was lacking.

I know it's easier to criticize than to create. Especially when you're juggling two difficult genres, I'm sure it's difficult to strike the right balance. But if I was going to be greedy, this is what I would ask for.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky on the United States Healthcare System

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