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The Devil's Backbone (#110 of 2)

Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

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Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions
Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

One of the casual disappointments of the ways we often regard art of all forms is born of that feeling of exclusion that’s often projected and even more often felt. There’s a sense that you have to be educated formally to understand art and to discuss it seriously, and that you might have to be a member of an intangible club of lofty intellectuals in order to be empowered to express a thought about a book or a film or a song that you hope to be taken seriously by others. This is a tragedy, because all great art is an act of democracy that can be felt by everyone. Yes, your background will affect your responses to art, of course, and why wouldn’t it? Your background, which is to say the texture of your life (your childhood, friends, lovers past and present, jobs, education), informs your responses to everything.

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions is a passionate and engaging read, particularly for fans of del Toro’s films, and, most particularly, for monster aficionados of all ages, shapes, and stripes, but it’s most valuable for the way it expresses the filmmaker’s voracious appetite for knowledge. This is an erudite man, and he wears his references lightly, sensually: He invites you into the realms of his obsessions, which include symbolist painters such as Arnold Bocklin, Odilon Redon, and Carlos Schwabe, and writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Arthur Machen, and Stephen King. All of these artists figure prominently in Cabinet of Curiosities, and so do a variety of other painters, composers, and even biologists. You may have a hell of a reading list after even casually thumbing through this volume.

Angels and Insects: The Cinematic Spawn of Guillermo del Toro

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Angels and Insects: The Cinematic Spawn of Guillermo del Toro
Angels and Insects: The Cinematic Spawn of Guillermo del Toro

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro ranks as one of the most significant and intriguing directors of horror since the genre’s glory days during the 1970s. Yet, in many ways, del Toro is still working towards the peak of his talents. Examined individually, each of his films seems deeply flawed and even failed. Yet when taken together—arranged and assembled as a vast quilt of images—they achieve a nightmarish splendor that demands recognition. Consider the imagery in Cronos (1993), Mimic (1997), and Blade II (2002). In these films, the images are audacious, ecstatic, ghoulish, and beautiful—they achieve something akin to a connective tissue binding the films together as an oeuvre that achieves intermittent greatness.