Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pan’s Labyrinth and the Double Edged Sword of Film Criticism

Pan’s Labyrinth and the Double Edged Sword of Film Criticism

I’ve been chomping at the bit to see Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. This is a film with quite a fan club in the respected film community. You can see the praise with its 97 out of 100 average rating on film review aggregators like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes

One of my most respected critics Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said:

“The result of the intricate interplay is a fairy tale for adults that is violent, sometimes shocking, yet utterly engrossing. And eerily instructive; it deepens our emotional understanding of fascism, and of rigid ideology's dire consequences.”

There is drooling abound. This movie got an unheard of 100% positive from Rotten Tomatoes’ “Cream of the Crop,” which is basically the reviewers of America’s top media outlets. It’s all over the top ten lists. And I wasn’t that impressed.

It’s not that Pan’s Labyrinth isn’t a good movie but the relentless praise, which made me rush out and pay $10.25 to see it at the only theatre in the suburban Northern New Jersey area playing the film, didn’t seem deserved. The film used these amazing blurbs by these critics to make this seem like Spanish language Citizen Kane.

The hurdles of any foreign language in crossing into the mainstream are enormous. The average moviegoer doesn’t to “read” at the movies. Do America audiences want to see a stylized genre fusion of part WWII historic drama, fairytale fantasy, and horror en Español?

I’m all for exposing great foreign films. Pan is a fine film with a unique sense of style and exhibits Del Toro’s great visual talents. It’s got the visual treats of Amelie and the dreamy Gilliam like script.

Pan is an interesting film and it’s great to see the high level of promotion t is receiving and people going out of their way to experience a foreign film, I just wish this one had that missing element. It didn’t have it. It had everything. It was enchanting, intriguing, brought light to an interesting historical period I never knew much about, crazy dreamlike characters and special effects. It had soul. It just wasn’t the soul of a classic that it is hyped to be.

Maybe that hype did it in for me but there’s no way of knowing. I would have stumbled on this film eventually I believe but when I go out of my way and feel an inner desire to pursuit a screening of a movie, the expectations have already been set a level that is almost unreachable, except by Borat.

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