Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” Rules

Two witnesses have told me that Pan’s Labyrinth received the longest standing ovation of any film that played at Cannes when it showed last Saturday night. And now Salon‘s Andrew O’Heir is calling it “hands down the most exciting and original film I’ve seen here, and the one that had me in tears during its final scenes. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro is best known as the director of such fanboy classics as Hellboy, Mimic and Blade 2, which are cool enough in their way. Pan’s Labyrinth is something else again, and something far more powerful and original. Combining a fully convincing fantasy universe (drawn from a lifelong obsession with classic fairy tales) with a completely realistic story about the endgame of the Spanish Civil War, this film features a heart-rending performance from young Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, the teenage stepdaughter of a vicious Fascist officer (Sergi Lopez), who’s fighting a ragtag band of Republican guerrillas in a remote mountainous area. Ofelia’s ailing mother tells her that she’s too old for fairy tales, but the array of friendly and terrifying creatures she meets in the woods don’t seem to agree. If she can face a series of trials against the various monsters and demons of the region, she can prove herself as the King of the Underworld’s long-lost daughter. But neither the giant evil toad nor the eyeless child-eating gargoyle is as frightening as her stepdad, with his spit-shined shoes, his cracked watch and his revolver.”

15 thoughts on “Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” Rules

  1. Daniel Zelter on said:

    Didn’t they just say Clerks 2 received the longest standing ovation…?

  2. Actually, this reminds me a lot of the Devil’s Backbone. That movie was directed by Del Toro, and also set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. It had some otherworldly parts (the ghost of a boy, and the idea of killing a mammoth with spears) and also included a real life bad guy who represented the facists. Seems like Pan’s Labryinth is an expansion of the ideas originally set forth in that movie. Did I mention that it was good?

  3. I’m a Del Toro fan — strangely, though, I’m less enthusiastic about The Devil’s Backbone than his other films — and I’m very anxious to see Pan’s Labyrinth, but are these standing ovations really indicative of anything significant? I could be totally wrong, but I have trouble believing that Clerks 2 is any more worthy or emotionally affecting than Volver or Babel. I didn’t hear anything about 8-minute standing ovations for those award-winners.
    By the way, where’s that interview Jeff did with Del Toro? Did I miss it?

  4. These alleged ovations are getting out of hand. Soon we’ll be reading about the Cannes audience standing up and applauding for about two-and-a-half days straight, with a few members dropping dead from exhaustion and dozens being taken to local hospitals for treatment.

  5. If you ever get the chance, Del Toro’s commentary on Devil’s Backbone is really worth a listen. It’s less a commentary and more a treatise on the ambiguous nature of beauty and truth.
    He sort of reminds me of David Milch: one of those dudes that can, at the drop of a hat, reference obscure historical/philisophical/art history facts and not come off as condescending.

  6. “Spanish civil war” + “heart-rending performance from young” + “friendly and terrifying creature” = Spirit of the Beehive! Jeffrey, since I won’t be able to see Pan’s Labyrinth for a good while, do you care to draw any other connections between Pan and Spain’s greatest film.

  7. I clapped until my hands were beet red with blood and pus oozing from every wrinkle in my palms! Everything is saw at Cannes was magnifique!

  8. I’m going to piggyback on Fygar’s comment and add that the two different (region 1 dvd) versions of The Devil’s Backbone contain two different commentaries. And like Fygar said, they’re both intelligent and impressive.

  9. David Milch didn’t end Deadwood, HBO did. They offered him a fourth season of just a handful of episodes and he said it wouldn’t work.

  10. Dan Zelter wrote “Didn’t they just say Clerks 2 received the longest standing ovation…?”
    No – they said “Clerks II” received an eight minute standing ovation. It was wonderful, but nowhere near the longest standing ovation at a Cannes screening (although maybe it was the longest standing ovation for a midnight screening at the fest; we’re not sure). The “Fahrenheit 9/11″ standing ovation was easily fourteen minutes, I’d always heard.

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