Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Guillermo Del Toro - The Fairytale Man

When I think of Guillermo del Toro, I think of fairytales. Rather dark fairytales, but that's an oxymoron - I can't think of any fairytale that isn't.

Del Toro is renowned for juggling blockbusters with more personal projects, managing to get the moolah from one set of films and the critical acclaim from all things.

But I'm not here to talk about Del Toro's standing in the industry. If you've heard of him (and I'm sure you have) then his standing is assured.

I'm here to talk about fairytales.

No matter how much budget is splashed, the unnerving props and sets in Guillermo Del Toro's movies always look childlike and home-made. The dimensions are awry. The masks look like masks, like caricatures of masks. Everything feels like an old-fashioned prop, not like CGI. There is no 'slick' in a Guillermo Del Toro movie. There are curling tendrils, distorting faces, streaks of greasepaint, curling clawhands straight out of an SFX workshop - you can almost smell the glue holding them together.

Much as I enjoy them both, I'd go so far as to suggest that Guillermo Del Toro is James Cameron's opposite. Two brothers: One light, one dark.

But this hokery-pokery is absolutely what I love about a Guillermo Del Toro film. Fairytales are about primal fears and desires. And I like my primal served up primal, with a slab of primal on the side and a tall glass of primal to wash it down with.

Children's drawings are primal. They're also scratchy and curly and unpolished. Artist Arthur Rackham's fairies are delicately malevolent, odd little pills to swallow. The childlike in me wants mess and chaos and clutter and confusion. I want to FEEL my way through a darkly primal film, not be led there by a smooth neon arrow.

Pan's Labyrinth, or Hellboy: Creative artifice, clunky clockwork gadgetry, skittering little insects and robots... It doesn't look real. It looks like a dream you are willing to suspend disbelief for. That means you're willing to walk into a dream. How powerful is that?

I love the way that Del Torro's work reminds me fantastical silent movies by directors like Max Castle. Has he got a new way of seeing things? Or just a very, very old one?

I'd say he's got a dark, fairytale, old-fashioned approach to how he makes films look and feel.

That's why I'm intrigued to hear that Guillermo del Toro will be directing THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.

For those who've not heard of this tale, it's a Chthulhu yarn by H.P.Lovecraft - a horror writer from the early 20th century who created fabulous monsters - ancient gods whose morals we couldn't fathom, whose dimensions and geometries our eyes couldn't understand.

When I think of Pan's Labyrinth, I'd say Del Toro will be perfectly suited, with his theatrical clutter and old-fashioned workings, to bringing impossible geometries to the big screen.

Especially since I hear MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS will be released in 3D...

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