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Sergi López (#110 of 2)

Film Comment Selects 2010 Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu’s Happy End

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Film Comment Selects 2010: Happy End
Film Comment Selects 2010: Happy End

Apocalyptic amour fou corrupts the earth in Happy End, Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu’s adaptation of Dominique Noguez’s 1991 novel about love, loss, and nuclear bombs over Moscow. As newspapers and TVs blare reports of lethal virus outbreaks in Italy and impending missile bombardments in Paris, and as ash rain falls over his coastal vacation home paradise of Biarritz, Robinson (Mathieu Amalric) wanders about in a fugue, scribbling in a cookbook (paper shortages are at a peak) about the summer before, when he deliberately detonated his marriage to government official Chloé (Karin Viard) for a mad affair with tall, slender, tattooed sex club employee Lae (Omahyra). It was a carnal relationship of an irrational, consuming order, one that led Robinson from Biarritz to Taiwan to Canada, where he was abandoned for the final time by Lae and, alone in the snowy mountains, lost his hand to frostbite. A year later, Robinson still can’t get Lae out of his head, an infatuation that the Larrieu brothers posit as so consuming as to supersede concern for Doomsday, as well as one ignited by a tryst that the filmmakers even more drolly, and subtly, posit as the potential cause of the burgeoning global catastrophe.

The Banality of Good and Evil: Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth

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The Banality of Good and Evil: Guillermo del Toro’s <em>Pan’s Labyrinth</em>
The Banality of Good and Evil: Guillermo del Toro’s <em>Pan’s Labyrinth</em>

Pan’s Labyrinth is a thoroughly mediocre movie—not egregiously bad, but dull and unremarkable and easy to dismiss. At least, it would be easy to dismiss, were it not for the insane across-the-board critical acclaim that it’s managed to garner. It’s not enough for these people to say “go see a sweet little fantasy flick, it’s good;” they must instead find deep and redemptive significance in what is at best a fairy tale retread with fascist gunfight appendices. But the fact that the film is a repetition of the fairy tale structure is exactly what people find so profound: Roger Ebert led the charge with his predictable declaration of “A fairy tale for grown-ups!“that was mirrored by other critics, as if dressing up a bedtime story with Francoreferences and bloodshed were doing anything other than gilding a wilted lily.

The film itself does little to engage the mind. We are introduced to 12-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) as she drives with an official escort into a forest compound somewhere in Spain; it’s the waning days of WWII, and her new stepfather—the bloodthirsty fascist Vidal (Sergi López)—has designs on her pregnant mother’s child, which he expects to be the son to carry on his name. In true fairy-tale fashion, the film sets up the Wicked Step-parent as an oppressive ogre so as to give the put-upon child a reason to fantasize—and perhaps subconsciously call those fantasies to life. Sure enough, she’s soon visited by a fairy who leads her into an abandoned forest labyrinth to find a wacky-looking faun (Doug Jones) at the center. Turns out Ofelia’s the reincarnation of a long-lost princess from a fantasy world (whatever it’s called; I blacked out during the exposition), and that she has to perform some tasks in order to restore her position.