Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Guillermo del Toro’s opera prima: Cronos

I have never liked the moniker “genre film”. It is inaccurate and disrespectful, however up until today I never fully understood it. I just watched with an audience Guillermo del Toro’s directorial debut, which I had only seen before with a few friends and from the comfort of my living room. I last saw the movie when the 10th anniversary DVD came out, and my memory of it differed somewhat from the actual movie. I loved the movie then and I love the movie now, but sadly I must say that not everyone liked it. Some qualified it as “interesting” which I reckon is a euphemism for “I didn’t like it”.

I was glad, however, that a lot of sequences that I remembered fondly seemed to work wonderfully with the audience. I was expecting the audience to be jaded, after all, how many Saw movies have we had? They weren’t jaded at all, and maybe I was, a bit. I don’t consider myself desensitized by the current state of violence and gore in cinema, and proof of it is that I still get shocked when I watch a movie (once in a while). It happened with Takashi Miike’s Ôdishon, Gaspar Noe’s Irréversible, Alexander Aja’s Haute Tension etc. In this regard I would say I do have a higher threshold of tolerance to violence than your regular Joe Blow.

This confirms the opposite of what is usually said: “it is impossible to shock the audience”. If it is so, then why is the audience still shocked by a 15-year-old movie? The answer to this question is in itself a testament to how great a Director Guillermo del Toro is, but it also explains why the moniker “genre film” exists. While watching the movie I was overly conscientious about what was going onscreen, since I had recommended the movie. In my mind, the movie was suitable for everyone. What can go wrong with an endearing love story about the sanctity of the bond between a granddaughter and her grandfather? A lot, staring with what was perceived as “hardcore violence”, and the fact that this was not your regular “Twilight” vampire. Could it be then that “genre films” is an adequate way of referring to films that don’t construe to the “regular” mainstream cannons (whatever that is)? I guess this is something I am going to have to live with. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t know before, but I think I refused to accept it. The only way of accepting it is to be confident that it is our little secret; there are gems to be found in “genre films”. The negative connotation of the moniker will remain however. Maybe it will change in the future, and if it does I think that it will be in great part thanks to Guillermo del Toro. He has shown the world that “genre films” have credibility. Need I mention The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth?

In other related topics, I am still amazed at Guillermo del Toro’s brilliant directorial debut. Some Directors can never fulfill the promise they show with their opera prima, but del Toro is not one of them. He is the true author par excellence. Cronos is packed with a certain old school aura. Traces of Hitchcock, a careful steering of the audience and a deep understanding of the vampire mythos are all present in Cronos. The film is truly a labor of love and del Toro is able to imprint his passion into every frame. Looking back at his first film we are able to catch glimpses of what he has become. All of del Toro’s preoccupations are palpable in this film. Yes, the film could be improved, yet I wouldn’t change it a bit. I can’t wait for the Hobbit.

Bravo Maestro!

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