director bong
music friday: valentine's day

the shape of water (guillermo del toro, 2017)

Another movie for "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is out of order. Week 21 is called "Modern Love Week".

Looking back on film history, a lot of major films that stand the test of time are romance films. CasablancaGone with the WindRoman HolidayTitanic, pretty much every screwball comedy, hell, even The Princess Bride, are all films based upon romance. So, in this week of love, let's take a look at those romance films released within the past 5 or so years, and perhaps see what will stand the test of time like those star crossed and fated loves of cinema's past.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen romance film released in 2015 or later or later.

Took me a bit to finally get around to this one. Guillermo del Toro has established himself as one of my favorite directors, and I wanted to see The Shape of Water pretty much as soon as it came out. But I missed the initial run, and then like so many fine movies, it got lost in the shuffle. I've had it on my DVR for what seems like years, and I'm glad the Challenge got me to watch it at last.

While there is some breadth to del Toro's work, all of the movies I've seen, whether the Hellboys (based on comics) or Pacific Rim (giant Kaiju) or Crimson Peak (influenced by Jane Eyre), have elements of fantasy, which is not my favorite genre (proof in itself that del Toro casts a spell on me). Del Toro loves his monsters, and he works hard to make us love them, too. The Shape of Water resembles The Creature from the Black Lagoon, only with Cocteau's Jean Marais as The Beast. Del Toro finds inspiration in low-budget genre fare, but his visual sense moves far beyond what those pictures offer.

While del Toro's vision drives the movie, ultimately it is the acting that raises The Shape of Water to another level. Both Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones do remarkable things while missing a crucial element in acting ... Hawkins' character is mute, while Jones is Amphibian Man. Hawkins only "speaks" using sign language, Jones barely speaks at all, but the bond they form as they communicate is what makes The Shape of Water a fitting choice for a "Modern Love Week". Hawkins' face is a wonder ... she is never pathetic the way a mute sometimes is in the movies. Her life is mostly full, and once she connects with the Amphibian, fullness arrives. She deserved her Oscar nomination ... she lost to Frances McDormand, and Saoirse Ronan was wonderful, too, but Hawkins is doing something special and unique. (The film won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.)

The Shape of Water is del Toro's best since Pan's Labyrinth. #369 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.


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