Adorned with the kind of attention a-kin to that dreadful dance disaster from last year’s award’s season, with a satisfying (and we have to admit) sense of relief, “The Shape Of Water” proved, within mere minutes of beginning, worlds apart from the la la lousiness that was our biggest disappointment of 2016/7, rather a compellingly crafted cinematic masterpiece which has not just caught us in its spell but totally swept us off our feet. So, what makes this mystical movie so magnificent and who, for us, is the shining star of this sublime screenplay?
In the sometimes mystical & mysterious world of the movies, the mix emotions that come following lofty expectations or otherwise, never fail to surprise us, screenplays generally falling into one of three categories for us, those that decidedly disappoint, simply satisfy or colossally captivate and while we try to avoid the former, there are times when either our own expectations or those lauded on a film by industry others, trip us up with varying degrees of magnitude. Take “La La Land” for example, a movie that was literally the talk of the town, scooping up accolades & awards like the most powerful vacuum cleaners, yet was totally lost on us, while the masterpiece in our eyes that was “Denial”, a relatively low budget & overlooked in comparison screenplay showing, proved the star of the season for us. Indeed, just this year so far, we have seen two polar pictures, perhaps not to the same magnitude, but starkly similar in their comparison differences, “Downsizing” having received bandstand billing yet decidedly disappointed, while “All The One In The World”, which flew under the radar of many, has proven our movie of the year so far. And what our favoured two mentioned here have in common, is perhaps in the expectation, as we went in with a certain amount of anticipation of acceptance that ended up be excelled enthrallingly, very much falling into that colossally captivating category, the likes of which are rare but when they happen, truly delight beyond bounds. Other contemporary & recent examples extend to “A Most Violent Year”, “August Osage County”, “Locke” “Love Is Strange” & “Wind River”, while if we were to list those that simply satisfy, we could be here all day, such is our love of all things silver screen, our comprehensive DVD collection speaking equally loud volumes, leading us to that inevitable question, where does this latest Guillermo del Toro delectation sit in our cinematic categorisation or, indeed, collection?
Well, while we sucker to a good screenplay story, we must admit favouring fact over fiction, this exemplified in the inherent lack of novels in our book collection, a biting biographic or real life portrayal much more our bag, a flock of films in recent times based on true &/or historical events, think “Dunkirk”, “Darkest Hour” & “The Post”, there are times when a bit of mystical fantasy presses our brilliant button and not only satisfies, but scintillates to enthralling extents. And in “The Shape Of Water” we have one such mythical masterpiece, a film very much a fable but stunningly so, a story akin to beauty & the beast, with levels of love against hate, heroine against villain and triumph over adversity, a comfortably feel good yet gripping film, one which is lavishly layered & compellingly crafted by its director with an incredible pedigree in the industry. Guillermo del Toro has a roasting directorial reputation that precedes itself, a marmite filmmaker credited with acclaimed “The Hobbit” trilogy against the more iffier in our books likes of “Kung Fu Panda” & “Hellboy”, his masterminding of “Crimson Peak” finding rare favour for us in an otherwise scarred screenplay landscape. However, in “The Shape of Water”, Guillermo has stepped up more than a gear or two with this latest offering which, in a word, is outstanding. And the buck doesn’t stop at del Toro with this phenomenal motion picture, no, it extends to awe inspiring acting from Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer and, our (for some wild card) star in the grand shape scheme, the magnificent Michael Shannon, whose career we have watched & followed with fervent; dare we mention more movies (well if we must) “Take Shelter”, “Midnight Special” & “Home”, hard hitters in our regular DVD watch list. However, the whole ensemble in “The Shape Of Water” both come together & contribute captivatingly to this cinematic colossus like no other we have seen since “August Osage County”, the two hours of this delightful del Toro delectation tripping by with consummate ease from beginning to end, the only blemish on its character the two minute black & white scene that, for us, could easily have been edited out with absolutely no adverse effect, while with comedy cruelty, drama, love, hate, suspense and plenty more emotion between, this mind-blowing movie has it all.
So, what of “The Shape Of Water” plot we hear you ask. Well, we are not about to go into chapter by chapter verse, save to say, the fantastical storyline submerses itself into the remarkable love-bound relationship of a mute human female and a reptilian male of the South American deep, one who is caught up & then broken out of the confines of a high security secret Baltimore government Baltimore facility in the thick of the 1960’s cold war. And of you get at least three of the lavish layers we have pointed to, that isn’t half of this captivatingly complex yet free flowing storyline that has a parallel universe within the realms of fantasy & fact, the fantasy being the life like lizard amphibian, referred in the film as “The Asset”, performed by actor “Hellboy” actor Doug Jones who, in his connection with the female mute Elisa, prolifically portrayed by Sally Hawkins (her bus window staring scenes resplendently reminiscent of Rooney Mara’s car ones on “Carol”), is not only remarkable on so many levels, but is breathtakingly beatutiful to boot, if but barely believable in the real world we supposedly live. However, in getting the point of “The Shape Of Water”, it is that fine line separation between fantasy & reality that not just sits it between but sets it aside either category, in fact elevating it to a level that becomes heavenly hypnotic & an utterly compulsive piece on cinematic motion picture making that we have not seen the like of in an absolute age. From the stunningly at times spooky yet emotionally engaging original soundtrack, to the terrific timeline costume, prop & set displays that exude complete authenticity to the film’s 1960’s era, to compare “The Shape Of Water” to fairy-tale classics “Beauty & The Beast”, & “The Elephant Man”, as well inevitably with “Creature From The Black Lagoon”, gives conflicting credence & justice to Guillermo’s masterpiece which, for us stands on its own stoically strong two feet and thus makes it our film of the year so far, the only angst being that we will have to wait far too long for our DVD collection copy. (DISCO MATT)