February 3, 2023

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Guillermo del Toro: The Devil’s Spine (2001) [by Lewis Saul]


108 minutes

Color 5.1 surround in Spanish aspect ratio 1:85:1

“What is a ghost?” Answer: almost every character in this masterful film. Del Toro plants a great red herring early on – making repeat viewing so enjoyable and rewarding! During the chaos of the Spanish Civil War, we witness the arrival of a large 1930’s car, driving down a dusty road to an orphanage in the middle of nowhere, dropping off a young boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), and his injured tutor. We also casually see Jacinto (an Eduardo Noriega extraordinary) – an orphan-turned-man-turned-man who acts as caretaker, and his gigantic sidekick the pig (Paco Maestre). War is omnipresent, but unlike Del Toro’s Spanish Civil War sequel Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), we never see actual combat. We see a bomb being dropped from a plane – it lands unexploded in the orphanage yard, apparently defused afterwards. we meet dr Casares (Federico Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes), the headmistress. We meet Conchita (Irene Visdeo), Jacinto’s lover and the boys led by a thug named Jaime (Íñígo Garcés) and the story picks up speed. ** Del Toro is the kind of filmmaker who not only thinks through every single frame, but is such a polymath that he’s able to draw on hundreds of different sources to bring his footage to life (see comment below). He planned this screenplay even before making his debut film Cronos (1993). [starring Luppi] … Produced by the Almodóvar brothers (Pedro and Agustin) and with an excellent subtle score by Javier Navarrete. Also incredible sound design by Salvador Mayolas. No boring or irrelevant frame in 108 minutes. Some influences Del Toro mentions in his “Wandering Commentary”: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole Luis Buñuel Tom Thumb Thumbelina Hansel and Gretel Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Carceri d’invencione (Imaginary Prisons) MC Escher Symbolist Painter Isle of the Dead

Death and the Gravedigger

Arnold Böcklin Caspar David Friedrich Carlos Schwabe Odilon Redon Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí Giorgio de Chirico Lord Byron “If you can’t move her emotionally or intellectually, just push her.” Roger Corman William Castle The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë Charles Dickens MR James Arthurmachen The Willows by Algernon Blackwood Robert McKee [negative connotation]
[in case you didn’t notice]: All “good” character names start with “C” (Carmen, Casares, Conchita, Carlos) and the “bad” ones with “J” (Jacinto, Jamie) The Sandman by ETA Hoffman Mark Twain Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve Alfred Hitchcock Pedro Infante Deep Red von Dario Argento The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan) The Eye (Pang Brothers) The Ring (Hideo Nakata) The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu) May (Lucky McKee) Blair Witch Project ( Daniel Myrick und Eduardo Sánchez) The Searchers by John Ford Mario Bava Sergio Leone Honoré Fragonard Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Alfred, Lord Tennyson In Memoriam AHH Juana Inés de la Cruz The Wild Bunch by Sam Peckinpah Marquis de Sade Ann Radcliffe Goths Tango


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