Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

I don't get out much to movies these days. Last summer, we took the girls to see some Pixar thing about talking cars. And then there was some completely forgettable movie about a bear. I've regressed to mostly G ratings and movies that don't hold a 3-year-old's attention, much less my own.

But yesterday, grandma and grandpa hung out with the girls so that Carolyn and I could experience a rare taste of freedom. Most of the what was playing looked pretty pointless. Just when I was on the verge of ditching the movie idea altogether, I saw Pan's Labyrinth, which was described as "surreal fantasy with a moral core."

Normally, sci-fi and fantasy wouldn't be a big draw for me, but the setting in 1944 Spain — with Republican hold-outs waging a desperate guerrilla campaign against the fascist Franco regime — won me over.

I was blown away.

Although this film won Academy Awards for cinematography, art direction, and make-up, the truly amazing thing was that by convincingly portraying humanity at its best and worst, someone made an art movie in 2006 that truly matters.

I was reminded of A Midnight Clear, a remarkable movie from 1992 that most people missed. Also set in 1944, this one in France, Midnight Clear deals with similar themes of innocence and vulnerability, and the perils of moral clarity in a world corrupted by power and expedience.

This theme of radically opposed good and evil has been coming up for me a lot lately. It seems that, mostly, the bad guys win, but that we existentially invent ourselves by making things a bit tougher for them. And this it seems, is what it's all about.

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