THE CURBSIDE CRITERION: GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO
(Here at Hammer to Nail, we are all about true independent cinema. But we also have to tip our hat to the great films that continue to inspire filmmakers and cinephiles alike. This week, Brad Cook seeks to become a real boy in the Criterion 4k Blu-Ray release of Guillermo del Toros fantastic, Oscar winning Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.)
I’m glad that animated movies have become acceptable fare for anyone of any age. Sure, Ralph Bakshi was eyeing adult audiences way back when, but movies like American Pop were still limited in their reach. It was just kinda weird if anyone over, say, 12 years old liked animation.
Today, though, it’s no big deal, which enabled a great director like Guillermo del Toro to re-envision the classic fable Pinocchio as a more adult story about love and devotion in their many forms.
The centerpiece of the story is the love and devotion the woodworker Geppetto feels, first for his ten-year-old son who is tragically taken away from him during World War I, and later for the wood boy he creates as a replacement. As in other retellings of the story, including the famous Disney version, the puppet Pinocchio is brought to life by a fairy and assigns a lowly cricket to look after him.
Of course, Disney owns the cricket known as Jiminy, so del Toro has concocted Sebastian J. Cricket, who thinks he has settled down to write his memoirs and is instead thrown into Geppetto’s dysfunctional turmoil.
The story loosely follows the Disney version, although it’s mostly set in fascist Italy during the 1930s, where love and devotion has a more sinister meaning. As a result, the tale takes a dark turn when Pinocchio’s ability to return from the dead makes him a candidate to become the ideal soldier.
The ending is bittersweet, although I was left wanting to see how the deal Pinocchio makes in act three turns out for him. I don’t want to spoil what happens, so I’ll just say that if he was going to give up one of his intrinsic abilities, I wanted to see an actual impact from that sacrifice.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, which debuted on Netflix last year, has made its home video debut courtesy of Criterion. They sent me the 4K UltraHD edition, which includes the movie on 4K UltraHD and Blu-ray platters. The bonus features are all found on the high-def platter and are as follows:
• Handcarved Cinema (45 minutes): Also found on Netflix, this documentary examines the making of the movie from the early days of del Toro’s ideas to the finished product. It’s a stop-motion film, which means that the animators spent an insane number of hours crouched over small physical figures.
• Directing Stop-Motion (26 minutes): Del Toro is joined by his co-director, Mark Gustafson, to specifically examine the rigors of stop-motion photography. Having made a couple very, very short stop-motion films with my kids when they were little, I can attest to how tedious the process is. And I’ll admit that I only did a few frames per second.
• Eight Rules of Animation (7 minutes): The co-directors return for their eight rules of animation, the first of which is: “No one talks about animation.” Haha, there’s the one dumb joke I’m allowed per year by Hammer to Nail editor Don Lewis.
• Guillermo del Toro and Farran Smith Nehme (21 minutes): Film critic Farran Smith Nehme interviews del Toro about the movie.
• Crafting Pinocchio for MOMA (8 minutes): The Museum of Modern Art installed a Crafting Pinocchio exhibit, so here’s how that happened.
• Q&A Sessions (69 minutes total): Author Neil Gaiman and director James Cameron chat with del Toro for two separate Q&As. Even though there’s no commentary track on this disc, I think you’ll be very well-versed in del Toro’s thoughts on the movie by the time you’re done with all the extras.
The film trailer rounds out the trailer, and the obligatory booklet serves up essays by film critic Matt Zoller Seitz and author Cornelia Funke.
– Brad Cook (@BradCWriter)
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