©2008 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
Every right imaginable is reserved.


This week:
Pans Labyrinth

Filthy says:
"Better than a cashier will ever know!"

"Uh, basically, the Captain is an asshole, and don't root for the little girl. She's crazy."

That's Nick's review of Pan's Labyrinth. He's the sleepy-eyed cashier at the Church Ranch Road Super Target where the Mrs. Filthy and I stopped to get some candy.

"Uh, are you guys going to the movies?"

Nick, using the deductive powers accorded by the fine schools of Jefferson County, figured out that people buying Raisinets and Red Vines at a store right next to a movie theater on a Friday night just might be going to see a movie.

Yes, we said. "Uh, what movie are you going to see?"

I wanted to say, "Just do your fucking job, punk, and sell me my crap in peace." After all, if I wanted commentary, I would have gone to K-Mart and listened to some speed-addled bonehag tell me about her bunions. But I was with the Mrs., this was technically a date, and I might get a little action later if I end the night sober, with my pants not in a tree and without getting my ass kicked by any teenagers.

So I said, "Pan's Labyrinth."

"Uhhhh, do you know what it's about?"

The Mrs. gave him an oral summary of her theses on the Spanish Civil War and Magic Realism from the community college. He nodded the way that uncomprehending teens do and then told us what he thought of it.

For fuck's sake, why does every amateur, unqualified jackass think he's a movie critic? They should leave it to people like me: professional unqualified jackasses. To hell with deporting migrant workers; let's deport these opinionated little shits who want my job.

Nick's review was shoddy at best, and I expect more from teens working at the Super Target. For half-assed I could go to the regular old Target down the street. He's right, the Captain is an asshole, but I disagree about rooting for the little girl. If you can't root for her, who can you? And there's maybe just a little more subtext than Nick revealed or grasped.

Pan's Labyrinth is by Guillermo del Toro, a director who just loves gory stuff, and he puts a shitload of it in this fantastical adventure story. After the Civil War, a young girl (Ivana Baquero) is forced to move to a remote Spanish outpost with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil). The mother has married a brutal captain (Sergi LŪpez) under Franco who is very much enjoying rooting out the remaining guerrillas fighting for communism. The girl's father has died, and the mother has married and been impregnated by the Captain in order to have a roof over their heads.

As Nick said, the Captain is an asshole. I stopped counting the number of people he remorselessly kills or tortures at around 712. He kills farmers, people he doesn't trust and the guerrillas, all with about as much emotion as a Coco's waitress bringing you pie.

As Gil gets sicker, Baquero retreats into a fantasy world of fairies, fauns and fantasy adventures that test her goodness and strength. Beyond LŪpez's keep is an ancient stone labyrinth that she explores. There, she meets Pan, a decrepit, vaguely sinister faun who tells her a tale in which she is a princess who must complete three tasks to restore her immortality and protect her family

In the real world, Baquero feels unwanted by LŪpez, who is only interested in his unborn son and killing commies. She isn't sure she is a good daughter, or even a good person. And she is confused by loyalties and who is right or wrong in the Civil War. She feels helpless.

In the fantasy world, however, she is in complete control. Pan's challenges are the sort of fantastical things a literate girl would imagine, involving giant, barfing toads, magic keys, living mandrake roots and a CHUD with eyes in the palms of his hands who eats babies like he's straight out of a Goya painting.

del Toro has an amazing imagination and can concoct scenarios that would make the Harelip jealous. God knows, she makes up some whoppers to explain where she's been, why the government put a tiny microphone in her tooth or how the cops framed her on a meth charge. The underground scenes of Pan's Labyrinth and the imaginary creatures are technically adept, but more importantly, haunting and slightly sinister. Pan's intentions and virtue aren't clear until the end.

The real world, though, is a little tougher on del Toro. The movie is so fucking grim and violent that some of the subtext gets buried under the blood that flows during torture scenes, or when a man's leg is amputated, or during multiple shootouts that kill dozens. I can understand that he wants to show how downright shitty the Spanish Civil War was, and how it tore a country apart. But the violence is a bit much and it's lingered over like the last biscuit in the warmer at Country Buffet.

del Toro doesn't get too deep into the politics of who he thinks was right and wrong in the War, probably because it's not that easy to assign blame. He seems to be more sympathetic to the guerrillas, though, and portrays them rather simplistically. When they kill, apparently it is not as brutal. To me, though, death is pretty brutal no matter how it comes. Anyone soaked in another's blood has lost some virtue, and also needs a good acidic soap and a loofah.

I'm also not convinced that the twining of the two stories is that seamless. Yes, a war is a great time to show how a young girl can be stripped of her innocence and be lost in a maze of loyalties and challenges. But, the movie feels a lot like two movies that are smushed together rather than organically connected: one's a great fantasy, the other's a mediocre war flick.

I don't know where Nick would rate this one. He'd probably give it about two or three out of five break-time cinnamon pretzels and Blue Raspberry Icees from the snack bar. Me, I'm giving it Four Fingers, but I cant wait to get my preview for next week's movie from the cashier at Super Target.



Shawn Edwards of Fox-TV

Athuer and the Invisibles is "A delightful and totally fun fantasy!!"

Filthy's Reading
Edgar Allen Poe - Complete Stories and Poems

Listening to
The Clash - Sandinista!