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PCR # 361  (Vol. 8, No. 8)  This edition is for the week of February 19--25, 2007.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Pan's Labyrinth"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez and Maribel Verdu
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 59 mins

With the Academy Awards scheduled to be presented this coming Sunday evening "Pan's Labyrinth," which is nominated for six awards, is going into wider release. A sure winner for this years Best Foreign Film Oscar, "Pan's Labyrinth" is the latest creation from writer/director Guillermo del Toro, who is probably best known in the states for such films as "Blade II" and "Hellboy."

Ofelia (Baquero) and her mother have traveled to a military outpost. Captain Vidal (Lopez), the commander of the installation, awaits them anxiously. Well, kind of. He has married Ofelia's mother, who is carrying his child. A child he is sure is a boy. When the pair arrive, they are cared for by the Captain's head house servant, Mercedes (Verdu). While on the journey Ofelia stumbles across a large flying insect which she thinks is a fairy. That the insect has followed her to her destination intrigues her. Mercedes takes her around the grounds and shows her a long forgotten maze, telling her to stay out lest she get lost. Her arms full of books, many of them fairy tales, Ofelia does just the opposite and soon finds herself in a mystical world where the inhabitants consider her a lost princess. Surrounded by the brutality of war, Ofelia allows herself to escape to a different world, though the toll taken on her there is almost as severe.

One of the most original and creative film makers working today, del Toro hits a home run with this story that manages to combine the horrors of battle and the beauty of fantasy in an almost seamless vision. And he is helped by four of his fellow Oscar nominees. The photography by Guillermo Navarro ("Spy Kids," "Jackie Brown") is very similar to that used by Tom Stern in "Letters From Iwo Jima," where all of the colors are muted except for the bright red of blood. The fantastic sets designed by Eugenio Caballero and Pilar Revuelta help create a fantastic wonderland where Ofelia is allowed to escape the cruel realities of the world. The score by Javier Navarrete helps set the mood while the many creatures created by make up artists David Marti and Montse Ribe' bring to life the characters who inhabit Ofelia's "kingdom."

Two words of caution. The film is in Spanish with subtitles. However, like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," the action on screen tells the story as much as the dialogue. Secondly, though the fantasy elements of the film are being highlighted in various advertising, be advised that the film is rated R for a reason, mostly for the brutal conduct of Captain Vidal and his troops. That being said, "Pan's Labyrinth" is an outstanding film and, along with fellow multiple Oscar nominee "Babel," a true testament to the talent that exists outside America.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Pan's Labyrinth"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Pan's Labyrinth" is ©2007 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2007, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.