• [The Daily] Venice + Toronto 2017: Del Toro’s The Shape of Water

    By David Hudson

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    Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, premiering in Competition in Venice and screening as a Special Presentation in Toronto, is a “ravishing, eccentric auteur’s imagining, spilling artistry, empathy and sensuality from every open pore, [offering] more straight-up movie for your money than just about any Hollywood studio offering this year,” writes Variety’s Guy Lodge. “This decidedly adult fairytale, about a forlorn, mute cleaning lady and the uncanny merman who save each other’s lives in very different ways, careers wildly from mad-scientist B-movie to heart-thumping Cold War noir to ecstatic, wings-on-heels musical, keeping an unexpectedly classical love story afloat with every dizzy genre turn. Lit from within by a heart-clutching silent star turn from Sally Hawkins, lent dialogue by one of Alexandre Desplat’s most abundantly swirling scores, this is incontestably Del Toro’s most rewarding, richly realized film—or movie, for that matter—since 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

    “It feels less of a fevered artistic exercise than his other recent work,” finds the Guardian’s Xan Brooks, “more seamless and successful in the way it orders its material. Yes, Del Toro’s latest flight of fancy sets out to liberally pastiche the postwar monster movie, doffing its cap to the incident at Roswell and all manner of related cold war paranoia. But it’s warmer and richer than the films that came before. Beneath that glossy, scaly surface is a beating heart.”

    “There is unmistakable, idiosyncratic care poured into every frame of The Shape of Water, saturated with del Toro’s offbeat compassion and looping, pattern-recognition intelligence,” writes Jessica Kiang at the Playlist. “[M]otifs recur and DP Dan Laustsen’s striking images often refer back to earlier shots, with an insouciant, incidental ease that could only feel so effortless in such a meticulously considered world.”

    “The era in which Water is set—Cold War 1960s—informs the aesthetic, but the director and designer Paul Austerberry have couched it in a baroque-colored, industrial-like setting, a dripping netherworld, a fairytale land existing within that time zone yet eternal,” adds Screen’s Fionnuala Halligan.

    “The bright-eyed heroine of the piece is Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who lives alone in an apartment above a crumbling repertory cinema in downtown Baltimore, and works nights as a charlady at the pointedly named Occam Aerospace Research Centre, where the strange goings-on defy a neatly razored explanation,” writes the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin. “Elisa is, for any number of reasons, the kind of role that comes along just once a lifetime. Hawkins meets it with the performance of one.”

    “When a secret classified experiment is rolled into the lab in a water tank, Elisa responds not with fear but with fascination and, upon closer inspection, empathy,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. “The fact that the expressive, other-worldly being is played by Doug Jones, who appeared as the similarly amphibious Abe Sapien in del Toro’s Hellboy movies, is an additional sign of the personal thread connecting The Shape of Water to the director’s distinctive body of work. . . . Del Toro and co-writer Vanessa Taylor (Divergent) seamlessly weave in points about societal intolerance toward otherness that pertain no less to a nonhuman discovery than to gay or black Americans in the early 60s.”

    “For the all the social insights and cultural asides, the film never feels digressive,” writes Kate Erbland at IndieWire. “For all the veering from one genre to another, neither does it feel rough. Del Toro’s tight directorial control sees to that.”

    Updates: “Unlike other filmmakers with an eye to recreating the past, del Toro puts his movie love at the service of, rather than a replacement for, his characters and his story,” writes Alonso Duralde at TheWrap. “You can dissect all the beautiful moving parts—the evocative set design, the themes of outsider-dom vs. conformity, the color palette and the judicious use of period music, to name just a few—and you’re still left with a heart and a soul that permeate throughout.”

    “Is anyone making cinema as lusciously beautiful as Guillermo del Toro at the moment?” asks John Bleasdale at CineVue.

    Update, 9/3: “It is not outside the realm of fair judgment to suggest that Guillermo del Toro has been a little off the boil in recent years,” writes Rory O’Connor at the Film Stage. “Over-scheduling can do that, even to the best of us, but The Shape of Water . . . does represent a clear return to form. This is bolstered to no small degree by the fact that it is, in essence, a fairytale and the singular Mexican director—along with his physically-gifted performer Doug Jones—has always been at his most punky and creatively audacious when working in the confines (or lack thereof) of that particular genre. As his enchanting, imaginative latest film proves, it’s great to have him back.”

    Updates, 9/6: Writing for Cinema Scope, Jay Kuehner notes that “it is precisely a Mexican-born artist, working within Hollywood, who’s making the U.S. a better place to be by questioning just who and what belongs there, creating a fluid frontera in which a perceived monster is no monster at all, and a woman working a low-wage job, deprived of a voice, is free to love—and fuck—whomever or whatever she wants. . . . Such symbolic characterizations would be simplistic if it weren’t for del Toro’s sense of play taking precedence over didacticism. The politics here feel like the consequence of, rather than the reason for, a non-normative love story that is nevertheless a variation on Beauty and the Beast.

    The BBC’s Nicholas Barber suggests that we “think of [the film] as Amélie meets The Creature from the Black Lagoon—except that they also meet The Little Mermaid, some Hidden Figures and the inhabitants of La La Land. Oh, and they bump into James Bond, too. And then there are various characters from the Coen brothers’ back catalogue. That probably sounds like three or four meetings too many, but don’t worry—The Shape of Water is unmistakably a Guillermo del Toro film. Indeed, I’d be inclined to call it the Guillermo del Toro film: the fantasy masterpiece that blends all of his fondest obsessions into one sumptuous whole.”

    “Though full of childlike whimsy, the film is, among other things, about sex,” writes Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson. “Sex as release, as communication, as connection both confirmed and denied. This is not where I expected Guillermo del Toro to take us with a monster movie. But take us he does, and in so doing offers a balm to the lovelorn and marginalized. He’s made something of a queer movie, a sensitive portrait of love on the fringes that is no less real and serious for all its transgressiveness.”

    “It’s the movie that I like the most,” del Toro tells Josh Rottenberg in the Los Angeles Times. “It’s this one, then The Devil’s Backbone, then Pan’s Labyrinth, then Crimson Peak, and so on and so forth. That’s the order for me—it doesn’t mean people have to agree. It’s sort of the aim-and-target quotient for a filmmaker—did it land where I wanted it? This landed exactly where I wanted it.”

    Update, 9/7: “The music of the film is crucial to the fairy-tale atmosphere,” writes Kristin Thompson. “It is entirely evocative of the late 1950s-early 1960s era, and not just in the brief scenes from real Hollywood musicals that would have been showing on TV at the time. At the press conference Alexandre Desplat (who also scored Suburbicon, competing here in Venice) said he wanted to emphasize emotions even while creating a musical flow like water, without emphatic moments. When del Toro, working as usual very quickly, showed Desplat a rough-cut of The Shape of Water a week after shooting ended, the composer referred to Nino Rota and Georges Delerue, two masters from the era of the story who were skilled at creating overtly charming soundtracks. The result is a buoyancy (to continue the water theme) that helps counteract the grimness and threat in many of the scenes.”

    Update, 9/11:The Shape of Water is del Toro’s best and most complete film,” declares Mike Ryan at Uproxx. “It feels like the culmination of everything he’s done before has finally come together to give us this gem.”

    Updates, 9/14:The Shape of Water has exquisite design, voluptuous romanticism, and piquant playfulness,” writes Fernando F. Croce in the Notebook. “It also has an overall rigidity that unfortunately works against the fluidity of its fantasy realms and camera movements. Like James Whale, del Toro’s fascination and sympathy are always with those marginalized, transgressive outcasts tagged ‘monsters.’ Yet his tendency to neatly schematize his characters, to pin them down like butterflies, tempers his poetry.”

    For Jake Cole at the House Next Door, “where Crimson Peak’s clutter of dilapidated, rotting luxury felt like the jumping-off point for the Mexican filmmaker’s imagination to run amok, here del Toro appears restrained by the concrete and steel of an underground research facility. The setting yields an inherent coldness that the film must work to overcome, and for the first time in his career, del Toro visibly struggles to reconcile his premise with its execution.”

    This is “one of those movies that seems to imprint its gushing love affair with other movies—with the flickering euphoria of classic cinema—onto every image,” writes the A.V. Club’s A. A. Dowd. “Del Toro has a madly racing imagination, but mostly as it concerns cosmetic aspects, like the Gothic-meets-steampunk production design of his otherworldly worlds or the endless gallery of elaborate critters he brings to fearsome, wondrous life. The actual storytelling usually isn’t quite so inventive, and that’s true too of The Shape of Water.

    “I tried to surrender to its romance,” sighs David Edelstein at Vulture. “Hawkins doesn’t overdo the ingenuousness: Her Eliza is sly and subversive, with an energetic libido. Shannon invests the disgusting Strickland with every drop of dignity he can muster, almost making this deluded zealot a tragic figure. Jenkins is a sweetheart. Michael Stuhlbarg is movingly conflicted as a doctor with a big secret. But the characters are always drifting back and forth over the line that separates archetypes from stereotypes. (See Brad Bird’s Cold War–set The Iron Giant for the converse — the stereotypical-made archetypal.) And while Del Toro ups the gore and—disarmingly—the sex quotient, the story goes exactly where you think it will. It’s an utterly lovely, complacent movie, too comfortable with itself to generate real dramatic tension.”

    At Ioncinema, Nicholas Bell finds that “a prominent streak of sentimentalism paired with a familiar formula tends to detract from some otherwise daring flourishes, including an unprecedented eroticism largely absent from del Toro’s previous films.”

    “As someone still recovering from the bizarre man-genetic experiment sex scene in Vincenzo Natali’s 2009 film Splice, I approach most interspecies couplings onscreen with a fair amount of trepidation,” admits Marshall Shaffer at Vague Visages. “To del Toro’s credit, the pairing never feels gross in the slightest because he approaches their love with a disarmingly tender earnestness. He’s pulling from screen musicals as much as science-fiction in their relationship, a pairing which at first seems odd until del Toro finds the common ground in their use of dream-like spaces to find the fulfillment that escapes star-crossed lovers in reality.”

    “Reams could be written about cinematographer Dan Laustsen’s perpetually gliding camera, Paul D. Austerberry’s green-tinged production design, and the netherworld Disney perfection of every setting from the diner to the cinema to the automobile ownership,” writes Sophie Monks Kaufman for Little White Lies. “Del Toro has conjured a vision as complete and perfectly contained as a snow globe, with a languorous pacing reminiscent of Todd Haynes’s Carol. Yet admiring a film’s craft is not the same as falling in love with it.”

    “It’s like it was shot in [del Toro’s] traveling museum exhibit, and I, for one, didn’t want to leave,” writes Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey. “What a divine movie this is.”

    And for Brian Tallerico at RogerEbert.com, it’s “one of [del Toro’s] deepest, most complex, most rewarding, and flat-out beautiful films. It is enchanting and moving, the kind of movie you want to see again the minute it’s over.”

    Updates, 9/15: “The raves are in and who can argue with them?” asks Sight & Sound editor Nick James.The Shape of Water is that big romantic all-out imaginative coup (with a sly political undercurrent) that so many of us have been waiting for from the director. . . . The plot is lightly labyrinthine. It goes by like the breeze because you’re locked into the characters in a way that you perhaps were not in Crimson Peak. Interest from Soviet spies in the creature adds another subplot played for irony and black humor. Though this is an auteurist piece for sure, you want to laud everyone involved, since the excellence is all-round: Dan Laustsen’s cinematography has the swoop and whirl at times of Gregg Toland’s work on The Magnificent Ambersons; Paul Denham Austerberry’s production design is classy, editing and music choices are both startling and apt.”

    “For audiences who like erotic fairy-tales, fantasy, musicals, and Guillermo del Toro in general, it’s unbeatable,” agrees Tasha Robinson at the Verge.

    At the Playlist, del Toro tells Gregory Ellwood about getting drunk before pitching the movie to Sally Hawkins.

    Update, 9/16: “Thankfully,” writes Luke Gorham at In Review Online, “del Toro has focused on the micro here, populating his film with some of the most memorable characters he’s written; some delicate visual flourishes; and an outré, irony-free love story. It’s the small, rather than the big, that impresses most here, and it proves a welcome return to the director’s modest origins.”

    Update, 9/18: “Resembling a children’s movie for grown-ups while reining in Del Toro’s worst tendencies, its hybrid form holds clear appeal for another year when the highest-grossing films replace humans with costumed superheroes and animated creatures, our postmodern costume dramas,” writes Film Comment editor Nicolas Rapold.

    Updates, 11/29: Hideo Kojima, “best known as the game creator of the Metal Gear series,” goes long on The Shape of Water for Rolling Stone: “Only del Toro could deliver this kind of entertainment that so masterfully blends his authorship with popular elements, and at the same time be a love letter to creature features of the past.”

    “Some qualities, running like a vein of gold through The Shape of Water, seem indebted to a more rarefied brand of movie dreaming than del Toro’s genre film loves,” writes Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films. “The touch of having Elisa and Giles live over a cinema, the sounds of the epics and fantasies echoing up through the floorboards, is reminiscent of the more overt surrealism of Leos Carax’s Holy Motors (2012). Hell, there’s even a faint flicker of (1963) in Elisa’s hallway dance moves. . . . There’s a lovely bounty of humanity in The Shape of Water [that] almost makes you ache to think how little of it there is some other movies these days.”

    “It’s a movie that I had in my head for many years,” del Toro tells Carl Swanson at Vulture. “The idea that I can do a Beauty and the Beast where the beauty is not a princess and the beast doesn’t need to transform to make the love worthy. When I read the classical inception of Beauty and the Beast, I always think they are on equal terms. Nobody can see past his ugliness, and nobody can see past her beauty. Both are very different burdens, but they are burdens all the same.”

    For the New York Times, Robert Ito profiles Doug Jones: “In a string of del Toro films stretching back to 1997, he has played a mutated insect (Mimic), a worm-spewing vampire (The Strain) and a spectral creature with blood-red eyeballs in the palms of his hands (Pan’s Labyrinth). He’s been an erudite fish-man (Hellboy and Hellboy II), an angel of death (Hellboy II), and a whimsical hybrid of human, tree and goat (Pan’s Labyrinth). But this was the first time Mr. del Toro had called upon the actor to play both monster and leading man.”

    The Playlist’s Gregory Ellwood talks with Sally Hawkins about this “incredibly special film that I’m so grateful for. It’s like the biggest gift of life. It’s the ultimate thing that you want to film, especially for Guillermo.”

    At RogerEbert.com, Nick Allen recalls the interview he conducted with Michael Shannon last November: “When I asked him to explain to me why he thinks Donald Trump was recently elected, Shannon reasoned, in one select passage, ‘This county’s filled with ignorant jackasses. The big red dildo running through the middle of our county needs to be annexed to be its own country of moronic assholes.’” Now he’s met with Shannon again to talk about “our previous interview, what he learned from working with Guillermo del Toro, his thoughts on the recent sexual harassment allegations that have come to the surface in Hollywood, and more.”

    Updates, 12/9:The Shape of Water is neither one of del Toro’s more darkly compelling fantasies, such as The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth, nor a gleeful comic-book adventure like Hellboy,” writes Stuart Klawans. “It operates in the slippery middle realm where filmmakers too often pretend to plumb the depths of myth, when all they’ve really done is toss off a miscellany of pop-culture references. . . . Voiceless single women, gay men, African Americans, low-wage workers, liberal scientists in thrall to the national-security state, sequestered suburban housewives, and fans of obsolete forms of magazine illustration: The Shape of Water leaps to the defense of them all, like an issue of The Nation on acid. And yet it touches ground. Of all the big year-end releases, The Shape of Water is the one that most deeply moved me.”

    “Mr. del Toro, though he has dabbled in large-scale, franchise-ready filmmaking, has never succumbed to the authoritarian aesthetic of the Hollywood blockbuster,” writes A. O. Scott in the New York Times. “He is a reflexive democrat whose underdog sympathies haven’t curdled into glum superhero self-pity. The most welcome and notable thing about The Shape of Water is its generosity of spirit, which extends beyond the central couple. Zelda and Giles, an artist whose advertising career has been derailed, are not just supporting players. They have miniature movies of their own, as does Mr. Stuhlbarg’s scientist-cum-spook. And so, for that matter, does Strickland, though it isn’t a movie anyone else would want to be in, not least because it feels the closest to reality.”

    “For all its conceits, themes, and symbols, The Shape of Water fails to impart a sense that its antique tropes have been adopted for a purpose,” finds Chuck Bowen for Slant. “People, smitten with the film’s banalities, will claim that it has ‘heart.’ But del Toro’s heart beats louder when he allows himself to play, dreaming his own dreams and respecting his heroes enough to sully them.”

    “Del Toro might have made The Shape of Water, but Sally Hawkins owns it,” writes Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice. “And yet, Hawkins never overplays it. Hers is one of the most expressive faces on the planet, and it would have been so easy to go over the top with the role of a mute, mousy romantic—to fill the character’s silences with angular, expressive grotesquerie. But throughout this whole thing, she remains life-size and real. It speaks both to del Toro’s confidence and generosity that, having designed this world so thoroughly, he essentially hands the whole thing over to Hawkins—not just so she can breathe life into her own character, but so she can conjure all the emotional connections required for any of this to work on any level. And my god, how she runs with it.”

    Nick Schager, writing for the Daily Beast, agrees: “Ever since her breakthrough big-screen role in Mike Leigh’s 2008 film Happy-Go-Lucky, the England-born Hawkins has been one of international cinema’s most distinctive leads, and here, deprived of speech, she delivers a turn of guileless nuance and heartwarming expressiveness.”

    “Having watched this movie twice, I still can’t define it,” writes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. “The strangest thing about The Shape of Water, which should be one almighty mess, is that it succeeds. The streams of story converge, and, as in any good fairy tale, that which is deemed ugly and unworthy, by a myopic world, is revealed to be a pearl beyond price.”

    Even though “the actual animating force of this lushly told bedtime story is Del Toro’s swooning cinephilia,” writes A. A. Dowd at the A.V. Club, “this is the same director who’s taken a repeated, twisted pleasure in putting adorable moppets in mortal danger; here and there, we catch glimpses of the perversity of his more wicked genre experiments, like last year’s extraordinarily crafted Crimson Peak and the buckets-of-blood franchise entry Blade II. The beastliness offsets the beauty nicely, like splotches of grisly red on the film’s lustrous, sea foam-green color palette.”

    “The second half of the film—choppily episodic, drawn-out—is noticeably weaker than the first half,” finds Sheila O’Malley at RogerEbert.com. “The film feels much longer than it is. There are elements that work beautifully and elements that don't work at all.”

    “I reached the end of Elisa’s story feeling both let down and uplifted,” writes K. Austin Collins at the Ringer, “let down because I couldn’t escape the sense that del Toro had failed to make a movie that lived up to the radical weirdness of his own story, and uplifted because, well, everybody loves a fairy tale ending. Del Toro has an eye for violence, kink, and dangerous desires, but his movies usually make me wish he were more willing to exploit them. He hasn’t made a movie as interesting as his interests. The Shape of Water, for all of its beauty, is no different.”

    “After an advance screening of The Shape of Water before its Chicago International Film Festival premiere, the lights came up halfway through the credits, revealing a telling image: the studio’s piracy security guard casually wiping away tears, cheeks streaked like rain, this stocky Latino nearly smiling, but stoic still.” Ray Pride for Newcity: “Near the end, Shape threatens to fall apart, as plot elements cascade to what seems like a disappointing end, but the rebound is majestic, its climactic passage thrilling in its onrushing imagery, transcendent in its final, triumphant gesture.”

    “Take a closer look at The Shape of Water,” writes Guy Lodge in the Guardian, “and its florid whimsy subsides into a stark, clear and eminently contemporary human parable, streaked with fury against traditional hierarchies of power in America. It’s a film that rousingly, none-too-subtly champions marginalized minorities and outsiders, and regards conservative masculine authority with a jaundiced eye—at one point delivering, as teased in the film’s own trailer, a very literal ‘fuck you’ to The Man. Its politics are not volatile or contentious, but its live-and-let-live message couldn’t be purer.”

    “Enchanting and annoying in equal measures, this wistful romance is oddly punctuated with bursts of graphic violence and full frontal nudity, managing to be both cloying and disturbing sometimes within the very same scene,” writes Sean Burns for WBUR. “It’s one weird movie.”

    The Shape of Water has emerged as del Toro’s most well-received outing in more than a decade not just because it’s beautiful,” writes Michael Nordine at IndieWire, “but because it weds its creator’s one-of-a-kind sensibilities to an archetypal narrative—what happens in the film is strange, whereas the way it happens onscreen is anything but.”

    This may be “the kind of film that could only have been made by an immigrant to the U.S.,” suggests Steve Erickson. “Del Toro resembles George Romero (who was North America’s greatest Latino filmmaker, even if critics never talked about his ethnicity and the New York Times’ obituary ignored the fact that he was Cuban-American) in two respects: his combination of humane values with a fetish for gore, and his post-humanist sensibility.”

    “If the phrase magical realism hadn’t already been coined, someone would have to coin it quickly,” writes the Atlantic’s Christopher Orr.

    “It’s like it was shot in his traveling museum exhibit, and I, for one, didn’t want to leave,” writes Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey. “What a divine movie this is.”

    For the Austin Chronicle’s Marc Savlov, too, “del Toro’s latest is a masterpiece of compassion and insight into the (in)human condition and the transformative power of love.”

    Slate’s Sam Adams and Dana Stevens discuss The Shape of Water on their Spoiler Special podcast (43’44”).

    Interviews: Ariston Anderson (Filmmaker), Scott Feinberg (Hollywood Reporter), and Chris O’Falt (IndieWire) with del Toro; and Joe Utichi (Deadline) with Hawkins.

    Update, 12/14: Erik Henriksen talks with del Toro for the Stranger: “They tell you, ‘All your problems are them’—immigrants, illegals, a race, whatever it is—and you go, ‘Of course it is. My problem is not me or what I do. The problem is they are taking my job. They are the guys that are this and that. They are the criminals.’ No, no! It is an illusion. It is not us and them. It is only us. If you understand a person, you love the person.”

    Update, 12/17: The Shape of Water “is essentially a children's movie for adults, inspiring a sense of wonder but also of passivity,” writes Ben Sachs in the Chicago Reader. “It looks marvelous—one can easily get caught up in the lavish production design and inventive special effects, and the graceful camera movements carry one through the meticulously designed environments. The storytelling is fantastic and straightforward, like that of a fairy tale. Yet The Shape of Water is also a patronizing film; del Toro and his cowriter, Vanessa Taylor, tell viewers what to think and feel at every turn, then congratulate them for responding appropriately.”

    Updates, 12/22: “There is craft here,” writes Adam Nayman in Cinema Scope, “and intelligence, and plenty of its maker’s vaunted, self-professed faith in monsters, both as marquee attraction and metaphor. But there is also an airless, self-adulatory quality to The Shape of Water that not only spoils the fun but reverses it, so that every ostensibly enchanted gesture becomes an alienation effect.” Further in:

    More than even Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water illustrates the gap between the “imaginativeness” associated with the GDT brand—i.e., his fixation on lavish bric-a-brac—and del Toro’s paucity of real storytelling imagination. His respect for conventions is claustrophobic: every single beat of the plot is telegraphed, from Elisa’s tentative, E.T.-style first contact with the Asset, to the plan she hatches with her friends to rescue him from his torturous internment, to the moment that Strickland reveals himself as the story’s true, grotesque “monster.” It’s tempting to see this predictability as a conscious artistic choice, echoing the broad, easily graspable dramaturgy of a fairy tale. But that doesn’t ameliorate the laborious boringness of actually watching it all play out, nor the many lapses in basic narrative logic (why does nobody in a bustling workplace ever notice a janitor getting intimate with a supposedly top-secret scientific discovery?), nor the simplicity of the script’s various subtexts.

    “For all the fanfare surrounding the film’s supposedly freaky romance, its depiction of love between a woman and a fish-man is pretty conventional after all,” finds Lara Zarum in the Village Voice.

    Update, 12/27:The Shape of Water holds so purely to its convictions,” writes Duncan Gray: “that an outlandish monster can open a serious metaphor, that color should be splashed across the screen with gusto, that bedtime story logic might follow us into the world of modern genre cinema, and that the filmmakers, star, and story can unironically hurl themselves at the unexplainable in the hope of a happily-ever-after.”

    Update, 2/6:The Shape of Water inserts a Latino and Latin American presence into its history of the politics of Cold War and Civil Rights America of the 1960s, and also into the current moment,” argues Dolores Tierney at Mediático.

    Update, 2/17: “This is a film made by a boy who loves monsters,” writes Kim Newman for Sight & Sound, “who has grown up to understand what they might represent to an adult woman, other outsiders (a gay man, a communist sleeper, a black woman) and an unforgiving society. When this creature violates a key movie taboo—in romcoms, nothing bad is ever going to happen to a gay man’s cat—the grieving Giles (Richard Jenkins) understands that he can’t blame ‘a wild animal,’ and del Toro stresses as he always has done that the magical must also be frightening, and that love and horror are transcendent and entwined in the DNA spiral of cinema.”

    Update, 2/18: “In my opinion,” writes the Observer’s Mark Kermode, “the twenty-first century has produced no finer movie than Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 masterpiece, which acts as a sister picture to his 2001 Spanish civil war ghost story, The Devil’s Backbone. Like Del Toro’s first feature, Cronos (1993), these Spanish-language gems possessed a unique cinematic voice, the distant echo of which could still be heard even amid the thunderous roar of 2013’s Pacific Rim. Now, with his awards-garlanded latest, Del Toro has conjured a boundary-crossing hybrid that is as adventurously personal as it is universal, a swooning romantic melodrama that reshapes the mythical themes of Beauty and the Beast with deliciously bestial bite.”

    Venice and Toronto 2017 indexes. For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

29 comments

  • By Pat McCann
    August 31, 2017
    02:43 PM

    del Toro is a hack. He's the horror version of kristopher gnolan.
    Reply
    • By Scottland
      August 31, 2017
      03:38 PM

      Troll elsewhere.
    • By Nick Inman
      September 01, 2017
      04:03 AM

      I like Del Toro, but I can see how he'd turn people off. It HAS been a while since his last good movie. What do you think of Pan's Labyrinth?
  • By Pat McCann
    August 31, 2017
    05:15 PM

    Not trolling - expressing an opinion.
    Reply
    • By thevoid99
      August 31, 2017
      05:39 PM

      Well your opinion sucks. del Toro rules cabron.
  • By Pat McCann
    August 31, 2017
    05:58 PM

    Down with del Toro! Down with del Toro!
    Reply
  • By itchyrodent32
    August 31, 2017
    06:02 PM

    Come on guys. Let's not turn the Criterion website into another IMDB board.
    Reply
    • By Nick Inman
      September 01, 2017
      04:33 AM

      Agreed. This is a platform for discussion, not insults!
  • By mlanderson
    August 31, 2017
    11:04 PM

    Del Toro is a master at combining a time honored genre, speculative otherworldly elements, lush use of color, and elaborate set design with a truly unique story. He is one of three or so directors whose new films I am automatically in line to see.
    Reply
  • By Davey32
    August 31, 2017
    11:35 PM

    Del Toro is a master filmmaker with a very visual eye for color, detail and fantasy. Any film he makes is a must-see! Anyone who says otherwise should keep their opinions to themselves. Are your films in the Criterion Collection?! I didn't think so.
    Reply
  • By Nick Inman
    September 01, 2017
    04:01 AM

    I love Del Toro, but it's been a while since his last good film. Hopefully this gets him back on track.
    Reply
  • By Pat McCann
    September 02, 2017
    05:22 PM

    It just bothers me sometimes when every single comment on a Criterion release is all positive. I don't like the echo chamber internal house organ element. If you read my 200+ reviews I've posted I'm nothing less than honest, even if that means slighting a picture.
    Reply
    • By Nick Inman
      September 03, 2017
      04:45 AM

      I agree wholeheartedly. Sometimes you gotta wonder if everyone really likes the movie that much, or if it's some kind of Emperor's New Clothes situation. Also, at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I have read your reviews. You're a good writer, someone who has something to actually SAY about the films you view.
    • By John Cleaver
      September 04, 2017
      08:10 PM

      Mob Mentality at it's Finest!
    • By Nick Inman
      September 05, 2017
      05:07 PM

      @John Cleaver, perhaps I'm being too defensive, but was your Mob Mentality comment directed towards me?
  • By Pat McCann
    September 03, 2017
    10:47 AM

    Nick, I totally agree with you. I've gotten burned in the past because I've fallen for user comments and screened a film that I thought fell way short of all the praise (Vampyr, Sweet Smell of Success, and Rififi to name a few). I also wish some people on the site would stop trying to pretend to write how they think of as 'intelligently.' No need to conform to a character to write about movies - just let it go. Stop pretending - no one cares.
    Reply
  • By itchyrodent32
    September 03, 2017
    11:05 AM

    I don't mean to sound like a jerk, I really don't. I just… It's just depressing because if people love something why not just let them be passionate? Honestly, I think we have enough animosity floating around in pretty much every other area of life. Frankly, there are a number of films in the collection that I don't like, but I just don't pay any attention to those. Why would I? I'm here to find new good films, and to see films that I love in new lights Pat, no hard feelings man. Really, no hard feelings. What bothers me about your reviews isn't that you don't like a lot of films I like, it's that you frame your opinions as facts. It's not enough for you to say "I don't like to Del Toro." You have to say "Del Toro is a hack." well, that hack has created a number of films that have moved and entertained a great number of people, so he must be doing something right. Just because the work of an artist is not to your taste doesn't mean it has no value.
    Reply
  • By itchyrodent32
    September 03, 2017
    04:05 PM

    I'd like to retract my previous statement. I'm one of the most opinionated people I know, and have gotten into shouting matches with people over the quality of movies (not often, mind you m, but it does happen) so it is pretty hypocritical of me to criticize someone who stands by their opinions with a good bit of ferocity, I'll be frank, Pat, you piss me off sometimes, and I've wanted to call you on what I see as excessive negativity for quite awhile now, but good on ya for speaking your mind!!
    Reply
  • By Pat McCann
    September 04, 2017
    01:28 PM

    itchyrodent32 - all good! As you can probably tell, I'm pretty opinionated myself, but also think I'm an excellent judge of film. If I don't like a movie, I can't pretend to like it on Criterion just because it's 'in the canon.'
    Reply
  • By itchyrodent32
    September 05, 2017
    12:25 AM

    Pat, of course not man! Personally, I can't stand Breathless, Always thought it was all form and no content or heart, so I sympathize. Differences are what make the world an interesting place to be, Right? One of my favorite films is Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, But I what's recommended it to a friend who hated it so much that he calls it "ass in his hole", we got into a bit of a heated debate over it, And I actually really enjoyed it, because it got my brain Goin'. I'll admit, there are a few films that I feel A strong enough emotional attachment to, almost like friends, that I have A bit of a hard time hearing bad things about, Because those stories strike me in such a personal way, I'm sure you know the feeling. I have it with some music too, But I can get beyond those moments and recognize that different people think and feel different things. What I find deeply moving might do nothing for you, and vice versa. Honestly, I usually hate online communities, Because it seems like no matter where you go, things are always going to descend into bitterness and name-calling, once in a while you can have a reasonable discussion though, and I think we've been having that, So thanks.
    Reply
  • By itchyrodent32
    September 05, 2017
    12:33 AM

    Also, I got to say I envy your talent for brevity.
    Reply
  • By Pat McCann
    September 05, 2017
    10:00 AM

    It's 2017 - 140 characters is the new norm; I had to adapt or become obsolete.
    Reply
  • By John Cleaver
    September 05, 2017
    08:06 PM

    @Nick Inman No, not by a longshot. The mob mentality that I'm refering to are the people who are saying, "You're a troll, your opinion sucks," to Mr. McCann. He just enjoys watching movies just as the same as I do and you do. Even if I do disagree with his reviews of The Killing, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Throne of Blood, I do appreciate his straightforward honest opinion and that he is not as pretentious like Armond White.
    Reply
    • By Nick Inman
      September 06, 2017
      04:36 AM

      I see. Sorry for being so defensive. As I said in reply to itchyrodent32's comment, this is a platform for discussion, and people with dissenting opinions should be allowed and encouraged to elaborate their opinions. What's the point of art if we're all just going to be Yes Men?
  • By Jeremy C.
    December 15, 2017
    11:15 PM

    I just saw it and think that it is a wonderful, enchanting return to form for del Toro. It’s turquoise (the color of... THE FUTURE), aquatic version of the 50s is like Rapture, but with less Objectivism and more kitties. It is probably the greatest fix fic in human history, though there aren’t many good ones out there. I’d say more, but Tor.com has basically said it already: https://www.tor.com/2017/12/04/the-shape-of-water-frames-communication-as-a-revolutionary-act/
    Reply
    • By Jeremy C.
      December 16, 2017
      12:01 AM

      Technically, it's set in 1962, but that was before "The 60s" kicked in, so it feels like the 50s.
    • By Sean Ramsdell
      December 18, 2017
      07:54 AM

      Much like American Graffiti
  • By Jeremy C.
    December 18, 2017
    04:29 PM

    I haven't seen that one yet, so I can't say either way.
    Reply
  • By Jeffrey DeCristofaro
    December 24, 2017
    10:12 PM

    Guillermo del Toro is simply one of the best filmmakers we have, ranking with Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle, Takashi Miike and others, a true visionary in a sea choked with "yes man" hacks and therefore a rich oasis in that desert called Hollywood which as of late has been monopolized by paper-thin, zero-calorie comic-book based action blockbusters and rom-coms that seem to be out of place with our changing world. We need INSPIRATION: raw, original, groundbreaking, uncensored and unafraid talent, people with real integrity and daring in their craft that are too frequently overlooked or ridiculed. THE SHAPE OF WATER is an example of that inspiration, not only something that takes something old and makes it new, and has ideas all its very own.
    Reply