Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sound And Visionaries

"If there isn't a monster on my call sheet, I won't show up to set."
Guillermo del Toro

I love seeing films that the director "...directed the shit out of" (as Ken Girotti so aptly put when describing Wanted's Timur Bekmambetov) --- I watch in awe and wonder with even a little jealousy thrown in...more than just 'how did he/she do that?', but 'how did he/she even think of that??' I felt that way last night watching director Guillermo del Toro's work on Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

CGI is everywhere in our theatrical features today...and more often than not it tends to take me 'out' of the film rather than draw me in. The same evening I saw the trailer for the upcoming installment of the Mummy series, and it left me feeling kinda cold in that way...on the outside looking in.

But some directors seem able to effectively blend the 'artificial elements' of computer generated images with the human elements of character, plot, and story to create genuine drama and suspense and tension for the viewer. You are 'moved and transported', which always makes for the best kind of film-going experience...del Toro accomplishes that in spades.

I first saw del Toro's talent at work in Mimic, a little horror creepfest filmed in Toronto around 10 years ago. Someone I knew was working on it or an editor I knew was involved (I can't remember now), and I was able to see some dailies and rough cuts. Needless to say, I was very impressed (since I knew how small the budget was).

The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyryth, and the Hellboy films have successfully continued del Toro's march onwards and upwards...and we now have his take on The Hobbit to look forward to. Always a master of craft and technique, there's also mucho heart and soul rooted deep at the core of his films...and when you put it all together it's called 'vision'.

Another director today who crackles with vision is Alfonso Cuaron...his work on Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban blew me away...and not surprisingly he and del Toro are close friends. But what is perhaps surprising is that they (along with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) are from Mexico. Oh...and their films not only look great, they sound great as well. Visually and audibly they feel, well...designed for a purpose, as opposed to orchestrated for effect (usually very LOUDLY).

Anyway, I find it fascinating that what appears to be our French New Wave of today came from the USofA's neighbour to the south. Do we (Canada) have 3 filmmakers that measure up not only in terms of being visionary, but also are close friends and collaborators? If so, I'd love to be enlightened as to who they are...our feature industry could seem to use more of that kind of thing.

Nevertheless, now you can treat yourself to an entertaining hour on film and friendship with these three Mexican filmmakers: Alfonso Cuaron, director of "Children of Men", Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of "Babel", and Guillermo del Toro, director of "Pan's Labyrinth" --- as moderated by Charlie Rose.

It's a long one...(and unfortunately the audio starts to lose sync after a while - I believe its also included as an extra on the Children of Men dvd), but if you can take the time to stick with it, prepare for a really uplifting and enjoyable's like eavesdropping on three smart funny passionate friends discussing life, art, and the movies.

I'll admit even a little envy as I viewed this...when you can form these kinds of connections and relationships in both your life and your work, it almost makes it all worthwhile.

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