Last night I went with some friends to see Pan’s Labyrinth. We were looking forward to the film because it promised something different — a macabre fairy tale about a girl who retreats to a fantasy world in order to deal with her difficult Spanish-Civil-War circumstances. We were hoping for a film with real teeth, depth — something compelling for an adult audience.
What we got was boredom. Every one of us walked out of that movie bored. It was predictable, mechanical, and just didn’t hold interest. The story is gruesome for gruesome’s sake, or rather, for the sake that del Toro seems to have no ability to engage the audience’s emotion except through repulsive imagery.
Pan is really two movies — one about a girl and her imagination, one about people fighting the Spanish Civil War. The latter is a rote resistance-from-within war movie, with an evil ruthless captain, rebels, supporters of the resistance operating on the inside, and no heart. The former is about a remarkably self-centered girl striking out on various quests, often behaving so stupidly that it’s hard to have sympathy with her plight.
In the same way I’m appalled at the critical accolades bestowed upon Letters from Iwo Jima (another boring, rote movie), Pan’s Labyrinth has received almost unanimously glowing notices. Have critical notices always been so off? I suspect that, like I said with The Descent, people who watch movies for a living are exposed to so much utter crap that anything which doesn’t just outright suck is lauded.
What’s troubling for me is that given how bored I was with Iwo Jima and Pan, I’m fearing going to the theaters to see anything. I’m interested in Children of Men, but fear it will be just as boring. The Pacific Film Archive here in Berkeley is showing an Ernst Lubitsch retrospective. Now there, I can’t go wrong…