Aztec, New Mexico, 7:11 am: No Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes scores yet for Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape of Water, but reviews from the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin, Guardian‘s Xan Brooks and The Playlist‘s Jessica Kiang will do for now.
The 12.8 Fox Searchlight release screened this morning at the Venice Film Festival, and of course will play this weekend in Telluride.
Collin #1: “The Shape of Water…is an honest-to-God B-movie blood-curdler that’s also, somehow, a shimmeringly earnest and boundlessly beautiful melodrama: think Creature From the Black Lagoon directed by Douglas Sirk.”
Collin #2: “It offers what must be cinema’s uneasiest probing of the postwar American psyche since Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master — and is unquestionably del Toro’s best, richest film since his 2006 Spanish-language masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. Crucially, it’s also one that he and he alone could have dreamt up.”
Brooks #1: “I’ve been agnostic about Del Toro in the past — filing the Mexican filmmaker away as an ideas man; a director who shoots for the moon only to fall slightly short. But I really liked The Shape of Water. It feels less of a fevered artistic exercise than his other recent work; more seamless and successful in the way it orders its material.”
Brooks #2: “Yes, Del Toro’s latest flight of fancy sets out to liberally pastiche the postwar monster movie, doffing its cap to the incident at Roswell and all manner of related cold war paranoia. But it’s warmer and richer than the films that came before. Beneath that glossy, scaly surface is a beating heart.”
Collin #3: “Like the best bath you’ve ever had, it sends tingles coursing through every part of you that other films don’t reach.”
Kiang #1: “But as much as it has on its mind, it has even more in its happy-sad, brave and quiet heart. Without a single weak link in the exceptional cast (Sally Hawkins would deserve awards recognition if all she did was that one, unmistakably post-coital smile of carnal satisfaction in her lover’s scaly embrace), it’s a film that makes you feel a lot.
Kiang #2: “But overridingly you feel lucky — lucky to be watching it, lucky that something so sincerely sweet, sorrowfully scary and surpassingly strange can exist in this un-wonderful world, and desirous of hanging on to as much of its magic for as long as you can after you reemerge back onto dry land.”
Collin #4: “Let’s just say there are significantly greater surprises in store than dancing water droplets, and the film commits to each and every one with a full-hearted sincerity and warmth that’s reflected in every aspect of its craft, from Dan Laustsen’s luminous cinematography to Alexandre Desplat’s elegantly swooning score.
“Like the best bath you’ve ever had, it sends tingles coursing through every part of you that other films don’t reach.”
Collin #5: “Hawkins’ bright-eyed heroine lives alone in an apartment above a crumbling repertory cinema in downtown Baltimore, and works nights as a charlady at the pointedly named Occam Aerospace Research Centre, where the strange goings-on defy a neatly razored explanation. The films on the marquee below Elisa’s window (The Story of Ruth and a half-forgotten Pat Boone musical called Mardi Gras) place the action in the early 1960s, but as so often with the Mexican director, it also has the timeless glow of fairy tale — and could often almost be Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid turned back to front.
Brooks #3: “Who can say whether these two star-crossed lovers will find their own perfect ending? The odds remain stacked against them, while the motto on the wall calendar strikes a cautionary note. ‘Life,’ it reminds us, ‘is just the shipwreck of our plans.’
“But in the meantime here they are, lying low inside a flea-bitten apartment, like Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in Barefoot in the Park. Elisa is happy and horny and very nearly free. She used to begin every working day by masturbating in the bath. She now has an exciting new partner waiting for her in the tub.”