February 05, 2007

Bad Things Happen to Children and Those Who Really, Really Want Them

I'm still not ready to give all the details of the wild ride I've been experiencing lately, but I thought I'd give a couple notes about some films I've managed to take in over the past few weeks:

Children of Men - Every couple of weeks I get sent a feature release schedule at work. I browse through the titles and look up information on their plots at IMDB.com to get an idea of what we're going to be working on. The plot for this one had me hooked from the get-go: Near-future dystopia where women can no longer have babies. Sounded sort of science fiction, and I eat that stuff up. I placed the P.D. James novel the film was adapted from on my wishlist, and forgot about it for a while.

Fast-forward about a year later, the novel still collecting virtual-dust on my wishlist, and everywhere I look Children of Men is getting rave reviews. It's weird to me how it seemed to be released without much sort of fanfare at all. But geez, Universal should have been pushing this one hard.

Why? The movie is SO INTENSE. Every second of the film you're on edge, constantly wondering "What's going to happen next?" The camera work is masterful, and is easily the significant reason the film succeeds in making you clench your jaw and grip your theater seat for its 109 minutes. There's so much violence in it, but, I don't know quite how to explain this, but it doesn't feel explicit. You get a brief idea of what it would be like to be in a community that has turned to a war zone. You never feel safe. And just when you do the bullet whizzes past, or the building you're in gets blown up. What a ride!

Pan's Labyrinth - This was my second recent helping of Mexican filmmaking. Guillermo del Toro had previously won me over with the haunting The Devil's Backbone, whose themes are echoed in Pan's Labyrinth. Both films are set in the Spanish Civil War. Both center around children who are embattled by the war - each having been orphaned in one way or another - and who are forced to deal with abusive adults who, literally, pull no punches.

The same goes for the storytelling in Pan's - del Toro really doesn't pull any punches. They're right there, smacking you in the face. The agony of a childhood spent in the chaos of a war-torn land is clearly defined. The central character, the young Ofelia, accompanies her pregnant mother to the military outpost where her new stepfather (who can only be described as vile) is in command. To escape from her obvious stresses she creates an imaginary underworld wherein she will resume her fabled royalty after proving herself to a sneaky-looking faun.

Ultimately, I thought the film was really, really good - but it left me wanting more. From the advertising, I was expecting more scenes in the underworld, filled with all sorts of almost-frighteningly wondrous creatures. When the film was over, and I was wiping the mess of tears from my eyes, I couldn't help but have a moment of "Oh now wait, that's all?" I know, I know, people who have seen it will probably want to throw things at me, but I'm being honest! Other than that single thought when it was over, I thought the film was fantastic in all other respects - the acting was wonderful, the creature effects were sublime, and the story was compelling. Definitely, definitely, definitely worth a second look on my part.


posted by julie at February 5, 2007 09:43 AM


BROWSE THE COMPLETE ARCHIVES, OR BY CATEGORY: JOURNAL | GEEKFEST | TRAVELOGUE | RECENT MOVIES | RECENT MUSIC | RECENT BOOKS | MOVIES | MUSIC | THE WORLD | MINI | LINK-O-RAMA | POP CULTURE | THEME THURSDAY | FRIDAY FIVE | PHOTO FRIDAY | PHOTOS | ELSEWHERE | OLD BLOG