Parts of 'The Shape of Water' recall films like Cocteau’s 'Beauty and the Beast'

The cold-war melodrama featuring Michael Shannon, as a big bad government agent, is less interesting than the relationship between the mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a night-shift janitor, and the mysterious merman captured in the Amazon.

Fox Searchlight Pictures/AP
Sally Hawkins (l.) and Octavia Spencer star in 'The Shape of Water.'

Guillermo del Toro has a head full of old movies, but his films somehow seem sui generis. I think this is because he uses all those stored-up movie memories as trampolines for his own inspiration rather than as touchstones. The best parts of “The Shape of Water,” a fantasy fairy tale set in 1962 in a top-secret aerospace research center, are marvelously rhapsodic in ways that recall films like Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast” without ever seeming slavish.

But del Toro, who co-wrote the script with Vanessa Taylor, also has his pulpy side, and I often wished while watching this film that he had jettisoned all the cold-war melodrama featuring Michael Shannon, as a big bad government agent, and focused more fully on the relationship between the mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a night-shift janitor, and the mysterious merman captured in the Amazon by government operatives in order to harvest his body parts for “research.” Still, scenes like the merman and Elisa making lyrical love underwater stay with you, and Hawkins, as she also demonstrated this year in “Maudie,” is touched by grace. Grade: B- (Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, and language.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Parts of 'The Shape of Water' recall films like Cocteau’s 'Beauty and the Beast'
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Movies/2017/1201/Parts-of-The-Shape-of-Water-recall-films-like-Cocteau-s-Beauty-and-the-Beast
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe