mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has carved out quite a career over the years. He first gained international attention in his home country with films like Imitatehe was nominated for an Oscar Pan’s Labyrinth who put his name on the map for many. A string of visionary and successful films followed, culminating in the 2017 Best Picture (and Director) winner, The shape of water.
It is clear from looking at his work that just like some of his other contemporaries like Quentin Tarantino, he has a deep and abiding love for cinema and its history, especially the connection he feels with the golden age, especially universal monsters. His latest movie alley of nightmares feels like a love letter to this hugely influential era of cinema and being del Toro at its most lavish and unbridled. He mixes elements from the supernatural, horror, thriller, and noir genres, and there are a few movies that fans of his latest will enjoy.
‘The Prestige’ (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2006)
One of the directors by Christophe Nolan the films we talk about less, Prestige, was made between the entries of The black Knight Trilogy. It pits two rival magicians against each other, one obsessed with the craft, the other driven by revenge against his rival. Add Scarlett Johansson’s mysterious assistant / femme fatale into the mix, and you have a good mystery thriller.
This is probably Nolan’s most underrated film. Superseded in some ways by the later genius of movies like Creation or Interstellar, Prestige maybe a simpler revenge tale. Still, it’s not without impressive feats, both in a twisted, well-crafted narrative and in the kind of arresting visuals the director is known for. With Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale at each other’s throats like the two magicians, and with none other than the late great david bowie in one of his final film roles as Nikola Tesla, this film is a gem.
‘Double Indemnity’ (dir. Billy Wilder, 1944)
The term “femme fatale” is common in film noir, and At Cate Blanchett’s shining example in alley of nightmares is one of his most compelling performances in years, a perfect film for by Bradley Cooper scheming, misogynistic carny. It’s hard to feel anything other than a slightly distorted sense of satisfaction during their final confrontation.
Yet the femme fatale has been around for almost a century, and often considered the best of them all, by Barbara Stanwyck Phyllis Dietrichson, a woman who is investigated after claiming double indemnity from her husband’s life insurance. She controls the proceedings in this outing at the helm of Wilder with a shyness, knowing the ease, and makes the rounds of the insurance men sent to investigate her.
‘The Black Dahlia’ (dir. Brian de Palma, 2006)
One of the most well-known unsolved mysteries in Hollywood’s sordid history, the story of the tragic and horrific end of Elizabeth Court – whose body was discovered in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1947 – has become an urban legend. There has been much speculation over the years about what exactly happened to the “Black Dahlia”.
While de Palma’s film ostensibly aims to bring some clarity to this issue, in the end it does little more than sensationalize the events further. Historically, de Palma has never been afraid to put style before substance. While those who came to solve the mystery may have been disappointed, the way this movie is conceived, crafted, and shot is nothing short of stunning. It’s also a detailed recreation of the 1940s, bringing them to life in much the same way as del Toro’s film.
‘Shutter Island’ (dir. Martin Scorsese, 2010)
A film that may not have been deservedly deserved upon its initial release, shutter island continued to enjoy cult status and large followings. Considered by many to be an important turning point in by Leonardo DiCaprio career, it took him in a new acting direction and caused him to be taken more seriously as an actor.
shutter island walks a line between classic noir and a more supernatural and weird type of mystery. The uncertainty of it all – subtly played out in confusing little moments of interaction and things not being quite as they seem throughout the story – adds to the audience’s sense of unease as Scorsese masterfully plays with perception and puts us in the position of the protagonist.
‘Carny’ (dir. Robert Kaylor, 1980)
The history of “carnival folk” and its representation on the big screen is somewhat mixed. From the scrap of 1932 Monsters until by Hugh Jackman incredibly revisionist take on PT Barnum in 2017 The greatest showmantheir reputation as brutal and violent tricksters has no doubt been bolstered by various cinematic interpretations of them over the years.
However, what we rarely see represented is the feeling of loyalty and love that can be fostered in this environment. Rooney Mara Molly takes it for granted until she is pulled out of it. Likewise, this 1980 offering explores the good side of “running away and joining the circus”, as Jodie Foster a previously outcast character finds a home, a sense of purpose, and ultimately a family in a traveling carnival.
‘Nightcrawler’ (dir. Dan Gilroy, 2014)
When we first see Stan Carlisle, he dumps a body, dumps it in a shallow grave, and then burns the house around him. Del Toro and Cooper collaborate masterfully here, as our expectations of Carlisle being the story’s square-jawed benefactor are firmly dispelled in the film’s opening images. The more time we spend with him, the stronger this notion becomes.
Another prime example of this type subversion plays out in this story of greed and ambition. Lou Bloom has so much in common with Stan Carlisle that they could have been partners. Lou is an unscrupulous paparazzo, looking for stories around Los Angeles. It embraces the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality to what turns out to be a worrying degree. Played with messy glee by Jake GyllenhaalBloom is a freak who won’t let anything come between him and satisfy his greed – much like Carlisle.
‘Sin City’ (dir. Robert Rodriguez, 2005)
In terms of neo-noir, there have been few films made like by Rodríguez City of Sin. Its inhabitants are all effectively monsters – there doesn’t seem to be a real “good” character in the group. While there are heroes in the story, the things they are forced to do to earn even a bit of good in such a corrupt city almost make it not worth it.
This setting can be a little dark, but the stylistic and elegant visuals – copied from the graphic novels they’re adapted from – really elevate the material. An incredible cast with Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, and Michael Clarke Duncan bring these over-the-top characters to life with their performances. Fans of the noir style and unique visual storytelling will love this movie.
‘The shape of water’ (dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2017)
Considered by many to be del Toro’s major work, the shape of water, the mileage one gets from it varies greatly from person to person. His simplest and perhaps best-known interpretation does him no favors and paints the film in a pretty poor light. But if you look beyond the initial shock of the premise, there’s a lot here for the audience.
The visuals, performance, production design, and story are all top-notch. Of particular note is the performer Doug Jones, who has so often collaborated with del Toro in memorable parts but rarely gets the credit he deserves because most of his performances are obscured by prosthetics, CGI, or both. Ultimately, anyone who’s a del Toro fan should see him at least once.
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