Movie Review: “The Shape of Water”

March 4, 2018 at 2:28 pm (By Amba) ()

Judging from the (lack of) response to this on FB, it should have been a blog post in the first place.

Saw #TheShapeofWater” today. Trying to frame how I felt about it. [SPOILER ALERT!!]

I love “Beauty and the Beast” stories (starting with Cocteau’s 1946 classic) and hoped to be able to give myself over to this one and suspend disbelief. The movie was too self-conscious, culturally referential, and full of in-jokes to be the kind you could give in to in that naïve way (what Paul Ricoeur would have called “first naïveté,” to be outré about it). In fact, I laughed out loud many times (even at “a god? I don’t know, he ate a cat …”). Yet it also had many touching moments, relented and deigned to fulfill one’s yearnings in the end, and it grew on me after it was over.

It’s interesting for someone who actually lived through the late 1950s–early 1960s to see that era turned into a garish mythological dreamtime (as also, differently, in “Mad Men”). It reminded me a bit of the quasi-Victorian alternate universe of Philip Pullman’s novels. Many sophisticated and subversive tropes about the entrenched sexism, racism, and Cold War machismo of that time wove through the movie. It was a nifty touch that a circa 1960 movie monster actually looked like a . . . circa 1960 movie monster, done up in the special effects of that time. And it was a funny and lovely contrast between human missionary position sex, shown in blatant splayed bare-ass full frontal, and human-monster sex, hidden discreetly behind a pulled shower curtain and alluded to with a shy, sly hand gesture.

Best picture? Hell, I don’t know. The postmodern self-consciousness of so many movies now seems to me a sign of decadence, as if culture is eating and recycling itself, with too little input from either raw experience or headlong imagination. This was an enjoyable movie, haunting and hilarious by turns, but not all-of-a-piece enough to be a great one.

A final note: was Del Toro doing a bit of subliminal “Hidden Persuaders” (1957!) influencing by making the monster look so much like an Oscar?

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1 Comment

  1. kngfish said,

    I saw the movie referred to as “Grinding Nemo”

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