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The Shape of Water

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Guillermo del Toro got the idea for “The Shape of Water” in 2011, but he says the project really began at age 6. That’s when he saw the 1954 movie “The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” with underwater shots of the Gill-Man reaching out toward the legs of Julie Adams as she swam. He thought it was so romantic and exciting that he assumed the two would end up together. He was shocked when they didn’t.“I decided I would someday have to correct that,” he says.

The Fox Searchlight film somehow balances romance, fantasy and social commentary. Another feat of magic: “Shape” re-creates an elaborate world within 1962 Baltimore, on a budget of only $19.3 million. Compare that with some of the $200 million-plus budgets of the past year.

Everything about the movie is designed to be a little familiar but unfamiliar.

That starts with the first shot: Both the first and the last scenes take place underwater and they have a dreamlike quality because the filmmakers employed the rarely used dry-for-wet technique.

“We couldn’t afford huge tank work,” says del Toro. “In the opening and closing, there isn’t a single drop of water. You fill the stage with smoke, shoot it a little in slow motion, and set a fan to move the fabric and the hair. We hung a lot of furniture with piano wires. Then you add little bubbles and fish digitally.The opening is so important. I wanted to show this is a classical movie, like Douglas Sirk, so it needs to be a flowing camera, with old-style moviemaking; this is a movie that is in love with cinema. We wanted you to know from the first image.”

The filmmaker was attached to a 2002 Universal remake of “Black Lagoon,” which never happened. But he always loved the concept and in 2011 Daniel Kraus, his collaborator on “Trollhunters,” mentioned his idea of a creature in a lab who forms a relationship with a janitor. Del Toro immediately bought the concept and paid people out of his own pocket to develop a look for the creature. (The script is by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor.)The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, garnered a whopping 7 nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. The movie, starring Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones and Octavia Spencer, got nods in the categories of Best Director – Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, among others. Here are five reasons to keep Del Toro — and his movies — on your radar.

1. His protagonists are courageous female underdogs. The Shape of Water tells the story of a mute, lonely young woman fascinated by a mysterious creature. Elisa (played by Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning lady in a secret government facility. Her world is turned upside down when she meets a scaled water creature who lives in a laboratory tank — isolated like herself. As their bond grows stronger, Elisa fights for her friend’s survival and her own hopes for a better life. The auteur explained to Variety: “We told a story not through the agents and the scientists, but through the janitors, the cleaning women who had to wipe the toilets, emptying the trash bins, and from that moment, you are already taking a political stance.”Exploring similar themes, Del Toro’s most acclaimed movie to date, Pan’s Labyrinth, which won the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, tells the story of a young girl who escapes the horrors of Franco’s post–civil war Spain into a netherworld filled with mythical creatures. After her mother passes away, preteen Ofelia is left alone with her tyrannical stepfather, a Spanish army officer. A supernatural “faun” (from Roman legends) offers her salvation and leads her down a magical path where reality and fantasy — and good and evil — are intertwine

“If this was the 1950s,” del Toro says, “the hero would be Strickland [Michael Shannon’s character]. Strickland represents three things I find terrifying: order, certainty and perfection. He wants those three, which are impossible and they represent the torture of a life, because no human can have any of them.”

The filmmaker worked with costume designer Luis Sequeira and production designer Paul Denham Austerberry to blend ultra-realism with fantasy elements. “I wanted Strickland to be treated and dressed like the hero. The lapels must fall into place exactly.”

The apartments of Eliza (Sally Hawkins) and her friend Giles (Richard Jenkins) were imagined as a huge room that had been divided by a new wall. “The windows that they share are two sides of a single character.”

But her apartment is color-coded in blues and cyan. “You cross the corridor, and Giles’ apartment is perpetually golden light. The other houses, Strickland’s, Zelda’s, they’re all in daylight colors. They are air — golden, orange, yellows. Eliza is water, but they’re air,” he says matter-of-factly.

“The color that we used very pointedly was green. Green is the color of the future. Those pies, the Jello, the lab. That’s color-coded, but it’s also storytelling in a very subtle way. Same with the wardrobe.”

And the music score by Alexandre Desplat conveys all the tension, humor and romance of the film.

Del Toro concludes, “The movie is about love. That’s the one force we’re really afraid to talk about now.”Contributed by.Since the dawn of cinema, monsters have loomed large. At every turn, from silent films to the birth of talkies to the beginning of the blockbuster era, tragic freaks and evil creatures have sold out theaters and united audiences, even in the most fraught and divided times. From Nosferatu to Netflix, monsters have transcended showbiz trends and generational changes … but have nonetheless been denied a place of honor at Hollywood’s most prestigious awards shows.

That all changed Sunday when Guillermo del Toro won the Golden Globe for Best Director for The Shape of Water, beating out the likes of Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and Christopher Nolan, patron saints themselves of sci-fi. The victory was not just a triumph for del Toro, but for the entire genre altogether. Because while it would have been easy to downplay the film’s Creature From the Black Lagoon-inspired amphibious humanoid and say that del Toro won for creating a stunning period parable, the filmmaker devoted much of his acceptance speech to elucidating his lifelong love for monsters.

“Since childhood I’ve been faithful to monsters — I have been saved and absolved by them,” he told a cheering audience. “Because monsters, I believe, are patron saints of our blissful imperfection.”In that moment, del Toro was not only accepting the first major award for directing a movie about monsters, he was making a major contribution to the legitimization of a scorned genre. Monster movies so often tell incredible stories about outcasts, persecution, and sociopolitical terrors, but for nearly a century, they have been largely kept in a cinematic ghetto, seen as money-makers and crowd-pleasers but assigned little artistic merit.

Sure, fortunes have been made by producing cheap, cheesy, and empty thrillers about menacing freaks, but every genre has its rubbish, and the bad stuff is all the more likely to be churned out when an industry refuses to take seriously the brilliant work that’s been produced.

The only other major category wins for anything resembling a monster movie were the Golden Globes handed to The Exorcist in 1974 for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay. And even that success was isolated; the movie was nominated for 10 Oscars and only won for screenplay and sound editing. That set an unspoken precedent that’s largely been followed ever since: The best monster (and science fiction) movies get deserved recognition in plenty of below-the-lines categories, for sound and design and visual effects, but get left out of the most prestigious, public-facing awards.

 

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