Monday, February 12, 2018


I did not want to see Guillermo Del Toro's THE SHAPE OF WATER, but when I finally saw the movie I was utterly charmed. I was charmed by the fable, by the clippity/cloppity sounds of tap-dancing and seduced by the infusion of nostalgia - the Black and White TV blaring the song and dance music that I spent hours watching and loving as a overtone of lighthearted romanticism that covered a 1950’s/1960’s dark view that was racist and homophobic.
At the same time I cringed at the depiction of a black man as stereotypically “shiftless” - a man who, when he does “act” is the catalyst for evil. I cringed at the desperate feeling of isolation of a gentle, gay man longing for the restoration of his youth. Films are complicated - are they advocating FOR - OR showing an era filled with hatred and bias? Questions I often ask myself as the movie industry is a powerful medium of promotion and indoctrination.  Del Toro makes one forget that some of his personas are based on prejudices that are the maggots eating away at our society. SHAPE OF WATER with its overlap of mysterious fantasy, its veil of beauty - is a powerful distraction from the undercurrents of societal bigotry that is depicted, and we are gulled by the fairy tale’s message of “love” and resurrection.

SHAPE OF WATER is infused with tiresome depictions polished off by some lovely performances and wrapped up in a cocoon of a love story between two different species - an aquatic he-man and a mute woman who connect and communicate their desire without words - just vocal utterings and limited hand "signing". Del Toro effectively manages to make each character fit a cliche by sliding and slippery means- and yet we are haunted by them- the music, the raindrops the fantasy all contribute to this illusion.

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