Wednesday, October 7, 2015

In the Labyrinth with Guillermo del Toro

Tonight the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures inaugurated one of its initial programs, a series of conversations with filmmakers.  An eloquent Michael Mann introduced Guillermo del Toro, who then sat with Kerry Brougher of the Academy for two hours, who had fittingly created a three-act thematic structure for the evening by showing clips of classic films that GDT loves:  Great Expectations (below right--"Gothic romance--geography is destiny"), Freaks, Bride of Frankenstein), along with clips from GDT's films influenced by those classics:  Pan's Labyrinth, Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, the two Hellboys, and Pacific Rim.

It was interesting to learn that GDT's father had won the lottery and suddenly become a gentleman (most Dickensian, GDT noted), then bought a huge library of encyclopedias that the young GDT devoured. GDT studied everything from comic books to great art, and believes it's important to to "consume as much variety" as possible as an artist so that "your language starts forming its own syntax," enabling you to "collect and repurpose."  (He also admitted to consuming lots of Doritos!)

"Everything," GDT believes, "becomes an exercise in narrative."  (For example, he liked to play a game with his children in the grocery store by having them collectively imagine what other shoppers might be saying to each other.)

Following are some GDT sound bytes from the conversation:

"There is a plasticity to film that is a language in itself."

"There's nothing in film that can be casual.  I want to codify everything."  GDT spoke of his consistent use of the color red as a positive symbol, usually of love, and declared that the main reason he made Pacific Rim was the character of Mako Mori, who as a child carried her red shoe as a symbol for her heart.  See my post on that film here.

This led at some point to a plug by both men for the Museum of Jurassic Technology on Venice Blvd. in Culver City (which I also love, defies description, and simply must be experienced).  GDT's home (we saw pics of that as well) is his own monastery/museum of artifacts.  Half his paychecks go directly to his wife; the other half go to his gothic collection, he told us.

"Every film is political."  Especially horror--classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead--they challenge the status quo.

"Downton Abbey for me is class porn."

"10% of everything is really good." (GDT's "law.")

"Within science there is poetry."

"The CIA and NASA have nothing on one app on the iPhone."

GDT worries about the business side of the film industry, about terms like "pipeline" and "content,"  which to him mean nothing but "sewage and fucking oil."

GDT admires the work of the Coen Brothers (such precision!) and David Lynch, who, GDT said, thinks in dreams and is the best horror filmmaker. (TG we have more of Twin Peaks to look forward to on Showtime!)

GDT talked of movies having been a religious experience when it was possible to miss them if you didn't catch them in the theater in time (as opposed to being able to download them or watch them on discs anytime).

And finally:  "We go to the movies for the same reason we go to church."  (That is, for the transformative moment that comes after sitting through Sundays of tedious sermons.)  Amen.

We didn't get to see a clip from GDT's upcoming Crimson Peak, but here's the trailer:

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