Tracker Pixel for Entry

​‘The Shape of Water’: Del Toro’s monster madness and movie magic

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | February 7th, 2018

Of the great designs in the history of movie monsters, there are few as satisfying as Universal’s stunning Gill-man. First envisioned by William Alland by way of Gabriel Figueroa’s Amazonian campfire story, the look of the Creature from the Black Lagoon belongs principally to Milicent Patrick. Christened “The Beauty Who Created the Beast” for a promotional tour, Patrick’s contributions to cinema iconography were unfairly squashed by jealous makeup artist Bud Westmore, who would for years claim sole credit for the scaly swimmer’s conception.

Patrick’s tale -- among other things she also designed the influential Metaluna mutant for "This Island Earth" -- would make a tremendous Hollywood movie by itself, and in one sense, Guillermo del Toro’s gorgeous "The Shape of Water" evokes any number of parallel Cold War-era realities for women in industries dominated and controlled by men.

As one inspiration for the script he would write with Vanessa Taylor, del Toro has cited his childhood desire that the Gill-man and Julie Adams’ Kay Lawrence physically and romantically end up together. And while he’s not the only one who imagined cross-species love and romance while marveling at the poetry of Adams and Ricou Browning during their underwater ballet, “The Shape of Water” is quintessential del Toro.

Set in Baltimore in the early 1960s, del Toro’s meticulously imagined universe evokes via Paul Austerberry’s production design and Nigel Churcher’s art direction a stunning variation on Atomic Age nostalgia. Much of the action is set at a secret government lab that employs Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) on the custodial staff.

Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) arrives with an otherworldly “asset,” (Doug Jones) an aquatic humanoid that can breathe in and out of water. Scientist/mole Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) secretly witnesses the special bond that develops between Elisa and the Amphibian Man.

It’s impossible not to read “The Shape of Water” as a paean to queerness, to otherness, to love triumphing over hate. The captivating wonder of its frankness and vulnerability in matters of sexual expression, which are rendered fiercely and concretely by the incredible Hawkins, is rare in a genre film -- or film in general for that matter.

Nobody put it better than Anthony Lane, who wrote, “The lust that is, of necessity, thwarted and damned in Disney productions of Beauty and the Beast is released, and allowed to flow at will, through the fable of Eliza [sic] and the Creature. So grimly accustomed are we to sexual violence on screen that to see sex flourish as a rebuke to violence and a remedy for loneliness, which is what "The Shape of Water" provides, is a heady and uplifting surprise.”

"The Shape of Water" is also, to the shock of no one given del Toro’s affinity for the movies, an intertextual kaleidoscope of references and homages to silver screen dreams. Elisa’s apartment over the cavernous auditorium screening “The Story of Ruth” in CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color may remind you, as it did me, of the sanctuary provided by your most beloved movie palace.

Dual Astaire references dazzle. Glenn Miller and Alice Faye are elegant choices for Elisa to communicate some counterpoint to the brutal electric shocks administered by the inhumane Strickland.

The film’s flights of fancy, as weird and sublime as anything del Toro has done, outstrip the ambitions of a messy subplot involving the Russians. The giant-size heart belonging to del Toro, however, is indisputable. He believes, makes believe, and subsequently makes us believe.  

Recently in:

News

​Trade wars

by C.S. Hagen

NORTH DAKOTA – Jesse Stenson runs his family’s Centennial Farm, following in his great-grandfather’s footsteps. Originally, great-great-grandfather Johanes Stenson Hauge left Norway in 1855, and traveling by ox cart, squatted…

Jan Syversonstandupjan@gmail.comThree hundred miles northwest of Fargo, ND I find myself at the back of a small bar in a small town surrounded by nothing but snowy fields and darkness. I take a drag of a cigarette and go through my…

July 14-15Fort Ransom, State Park, Fort Ransom, NDA true testament to horsepower. Wheelwright demo with Fargo’s own Mike Kolesar, horse powered threshing and haying demos, demos of traditional arts and crafts and insights to…

One of three Red State Democratic U.S. Senators up for reelection this November, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp is no doubt in the national spotlight.That President Trump has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Court of Appeals…

Can It Happen Here?So it has finally come to this. From the normal of a century to the abnormal of the last 30 months, we are at each other’s throats. We represent either the “looney left” or the “righteous right.”…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

All About Food

​Food truck fever

by HPR Contributor

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comHave you all been to Taco Brothers Taco Truck yet? Or how about Poke Bowl Food Truck? Have you tried the Walleye Wrap at Chef Mobile? There may have been a few mobile food establishments in decades…

Music

​Soul Man

by Sabrina Hornung

Saint Paul and the Broken Bones is known for their distinct R&B sound, with Paul Janeway’s soulful voice and powerful backing band, he exudes emotion--a true showman. He dresses the part and dominates the stage with an almost…

Boots Riley hallucinates a wildly funny feature debut with “Sorry to Bother You,” a sharp-fanged social satire that mashes up the innovative handmade aesthetics of Michel Gondry with the fierce truth-to-power consciousness of…

Arts

Dan Mihuta: The Art Maker

by HPR Contributor

By Rod Hadland rodanthonyhadland@gmail.comThe name Mr. Mihuta may not be familiar, but for most of my life, I’ve known that name. There was a television show where Mr. Mihuta taught art projects, in various mediums, that I…

Theatre

Xanadu: The Musical

by HPR Contributor

By Tayler Klimektklimek@cord.eduGet ready to dive into a world full of demi-gods, mythological creatures, and plenty of disco balls when you see Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater’s exciting first show of its 72nd season:…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comHow lucky we are in the FM area that we have so many craft breweries, but did you know that we also have two cider houses? Cottonwood Cider House is one of those cider houses and is just a short…

Best Local CelebrityCarson WentzBest Stylist / BarberJed Felix, Everett’s BarbershopBest Salon / Barber ShopEverett’s BarbershopBest Tattoo Parlor46 & 2 TattooBest Tattoo ArtistMeg Felix, No Coast TattooBest Gift ShopZandbroz…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.edu Recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.- The United Nations…