From Fantasy to Comedy: Three International Movies

I was staring at my computer screen. My fingers restlessly typed in the air over the keyboard, like prancing racehorses waiting for the gate to snap open. Slowly I lowered them to the keyboard and they dashed away, speeding along the keys in search of ethnic events in the coming week. I zipped through all my known contacts: the Multicultural Society of Kamloops site, the Facebook groups of campus ethnic clubs, the TRU website, and so forth. But nothing came forward. With crunch time looming everyone on campus was tying themselves to their desks, locking their doors and getting to work. The rest of Kamloops was preparing for summer. With my own deadlines to meet and a tight budget I had missed two big events that weekend that would have beautifully suited this blog. A banquet hosted by the Multicultural Society and a Storytellers Gala with a presentation hosted by the Aboriginal club.

So, I give you a movie review. I attended an awesome Japanese Club presentation yesterday where I drew a Manga character! Soon I’ll have that up! And next week is Holi! But in the meantime, enjoy these interesting movies.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Set in Spain in the year 1944, during the Francoist period five years after the Spanish civil war, El Laberinto De Fauno, or Pan’s Labyrinth is an interesting mix of harsh reality and whimsy. The protagonist Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero Macías, is a young girl transported to an outpost with her pregnant mother, where they meet Ofelia’s stepfather, Captain Vidal, played by Sergi López. After discovering a creature she believes is a fairy, Ofelia explores the labyrinth near her new home and finds herself led through a series of tests. While she is going about her mythical tasks her cruel stepfather is working to quell a local group of rebels.

While the trailer makes the film appear darker than it is, this is certainly not a film for little kids because there are a few scenes of brutality. But it’s still far removed from 18A and 14A zombie films that are filled with gore and guts.

There were a number of things that I loved about this film. For one, the mythical creatures brought forward were beautifully done in my opinion. Though it was easy to see their fairytale roots they each had imaginatively unique features. That’s the neat thing about fairytales, their ever evolving nature. In a way we can learn a lot about a society by how they interpret fairytales and creatures. What were they scared of or fascinated by? Water beasts? Air creatures? Tall beings? Short ones?

The film also had a number of underlying themes. For example, the bug creature that Ofelia instantly believes is a fairy later morphs into an imitation of her fairytale book’s depiction, artistically commenting on our ability as humans to transform odd things we see into mythical creatures. There are several instances where Ofelia’s interactions with the mythical creatures are exposed but the adults around her do not see what she does. It’s an age-old observation on the loss of imagination and belief people experience as they grow up but it worked for the film.

Finally I enjoyed the masterful way the director, Guillermo del Toro, wove the stories of the adults and Ofelia together without interrupting the flow of the story. I started the film Love about a solo astronaut in the International Space Station (ISS) and gave up because the story of an American Civil War soldier in 1864 was thrown into the mix without a smooth transition, muddling the film’s plot. Plus there were a number of glaring inaccuracies about being in space aboard the ISS that I couldn’t get over. And though I realize that synthesizing weightlessness is expensive they could have at least had the protagonist up there with a companion who I don’t know dies or something, because there is no way any space agency would send up an astronaut alone for such an extended amount of time—no way whatsoever.

Anyway, since Pan’s Labyrinth was so serious I thought I’d share a comedy next.

Shaolin Soccer

Shaolin Soccer is a 2001 Hong Kong comedy about a former shaolin monk, Mighty Steel Leg Sing, played by Stephen Chow, gathering together his five brothers Iron Head, Iron Shirt, Hooking Leg, Empty Hand and Light Weight to make up a soccer team. Rather than play in the standard manner, under the guidance of Golden Leg Fung played by Ng Man Tat, Sing and his brothers utilize their shaolin kung fu to bring a powerful and amusing twist to the game.

This movie has a type of humour that will either be a hit with its audience or a bore. It’s kind of a goofy, your-younger-brother-or-sister-being-silly kind of funny. Where your younger sibling or friend’s sibling comes strutting into the room wearing their mother’s grossly oversized clothes and heels and painted up with lipstick. Or where your roommate spins around armed with a banana humming the tune to the James Bond theme song as he or she slinks along the wall. So, take a look if you want and tell me what you think.

And one more comedy, albeit partial drama, to really off-balance Pan’s Labyrinth and re-instill hope in my taste in comedies if Shaolin Soccer did not make you laugh.

Bend It Like Beckham

Bend It Like Beckham is a quirky British film about, Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra played by Parminder Nagra, a daughter of Punjabi Sikhs in Hounslow, London who wants to play soccer despite her family’s opposition. She befriends a girl named Juliette “Jules” Paxton, played by Keira Knightley, who encourages her to tryout for a neighborhood team. With Jess’s parents busy planning an extravagant wedding for her elder sister, Jess easily sneaks to practice until the day of finals where the games overlaps her sister’s wedding.

The movie showcases and pokes fun at the rules of womanhood regarded by the Punjabi and the British while comparing and contrasting the two cultures. It also touches on other aspects of sexuality in the film around the dribbling, kicking and soccer juggling. Even if you are not a soccer fan this film is amusing. Of course I’m biased because I love soccer. Which would also explain why I have two soccer movies in this post.

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Now, I can’t really discuss the other underlying themes of these films without revealing too much about the movies. So here is the deal. You go and watch the movies. Then in the comments below we can have a discussion about their themes without disappointing those who haven’t seen it yet. I’m particularly interested in what you thought about Pan’s Labyrinth.

Don’t look below the star line if you don’t want spoilers!

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