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War Story

Director Mark Jackson’s drama is a chilly study in grief starring Catherine Keener as a war-zone photographer shattered by her experiences in Libya.

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Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

Opening Shots: Pan's Labyrinth

So many movies have opening shots that are like overtures, condensed miniatures of the whole film. In Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" you might even say it contains the entire movie in one shot. Not only does it begin with the ending, but the movement of the shot (together with the next one) takes us from underground (the land of the subconscious, the imagination) up into the light of day -- or, looked at another way, from political and psychological repression into the liberation of the open air. This presages the momentum of the entire movie.

"Pan's Labyrinth" is so locked into the emotional and fantasy world of its protagonist, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), that the camera itself lies on its side next to her and is then plunges vertiginously into her pupil, entering her head, where the movie takes place. This initial dazzling sweep (actually a composite shot, but executed in once continuous motion) sucks us into the movie so quickly that we barely register what we've seen until the end, when we remember these prophetic first few seconds from the start of the movie.

"Pan's Labyrinth" is riddled with pupils and irises, holes and portals that lead to new worlds. In this first shot, we appear to rise out of the ground (although it's a right-to-left movement, reversing time), into Ofelia's eye into a fantasy realm of her own creation, and then moves back to the right (setting the story into forward motion), following a running figure (Ofelia herself) up a circular stairway and through another doorway, into another chamber, with another stairway. The next shot follows her up the stairs, leading through a reverse of the opening pupil-shot: an eye-hole flooded with white light. And, with that, the movie-proper begins...

Roger Ebert has published a Great Movies review of "Pan's Labyrinth. My own review, originally in the Chicago Sun-Times, is at RogerEbert.com, too, in the Editor's Notes section.

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Cannes #10: Guessing games

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CANNES, France –- All rumors about the prizes at Cannes are essentially worthless. Why don’t I know this? I could make up my own and do just about as well. It is apparently true that Sam Jackson told somebody there were going to be “big surprises” when the awards were announced, and there were; never before has a jury honored the casts of two films with ensemble acting awards, and certainly no one predicted that Ken Loach’s “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” would win the Palme d’Or. When it did, there was much agreement, and, yes, much surprise.

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