Sunday, December 14, 2014

Clockwork Wasp

Guillermo del Toro's Cronos (1993) is kind of a precursor to his brother/sister films Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth. It is not set in the Spanish Civil War, but there is a little girl...

Federico Luppi plays Jesus Gris, an older antique dealer in a Mexican city. His glamorous wife teaches tango, while he takes care of his young granddaughter at the shop. One day, he gets a visit from a genial thug played by Ron Perlman, and he figures out which artifact the bad guys are looking for: a clockwork insect that drives a stinger deep within his palm.

The next discovery he makes is that the sting of this machine rejuvenates him, and gives him a curious thirst for blood. It is pretty clear why the thugs want this gizmo. Perlman's father, a sick industrialist and occultist played by Claudio Brook, thinks it is the key to eternal life.

We get a number of del Toro's signature touches, like clockwork and insects, mirrors and clocks, and monsters with amazing makeup (his effects company, Necropia, provides this). The aged protagonist with a glamorous wife in a dilapidated mansion as in Devil's Backbone. But most especially, children. There are many great things about this movie, but little Tamara Shanath as the granddaughter is one of the best. She is nearly silent, often somber, but always sees clearly and lovingly.

I enjoyed this entry as much as the other two (I consider them to be a set), although Ms. Spenser could see that it was something of a first attempt (it was del Toro's first feature as director). Now that we've seen this trilogy, I think we're ready for Spirit of the Beehive.

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