Bertha Navarro

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El Norte Review


Extraordinary
Gregory Nava's El Norte has come to be regarded as the definitive portrait of the experience of undocumented Latin-American workers in the United States. Released in 1983, Nava's film has lost none of its lyrical and thematic power as it follows two Mayan Indian teenagers, brother and sister, whose dreams of a better life in America belie the fact they are simply trading one form of dehumanization for another.

The film's direction and script -- co-written by Nava and Anna Thomas -- are spare yet purposeful. At times, Nava and Thomas's work feels a bit clumsy with its jabs at broad cultural stereotypes (fatuous gringo employers, vulgar Mexicans, etc.) and liberal dips into melodrama, but El Norte is also lyrically eloquent, steeped in dreams and visual metaphors that allude to a portentous future for its protagonists.

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Pan's Labyrinth Review


Excellent
Unfolding before viewers' eyes like luxuriantly blooming nightshade, Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is a dark treat that delivers a powerful sting. The nightmare conventions are here in his story of a young girl whose moorings to the real world have been quite effectively cut, everything from mysterious forests and exaggeratedly evil father figures to subterranean monsters and a fairy world existing quite close to our own. But instead of losing himself in the otherworldly, del Toro bases this fantasia in the deadliest of realities.

In 1944, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a bookish 12-year-old arrives with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) at an isolated farmhouse in northern Spain. Here, amidst the dark woods and quietly subservient peasants, her new stepfather Vidal (Sergi López), an army captain, has set up base to harass leftover anti-Fascist rebels from the Civil War. The carefully sadistic Vidal has no squeamishness about the humanity of his anti-insurgent campaign, coolly ordering that all food and medical supplies for the nearby villagers be locked up in the farmhouse and only doled out under guard -- an attempt to starve out the rebels hiding up in the mountains. While the adults (including the excellent Maribel Verdú from Y Tu Mamá También as a woman with rebel ties) are fully enmeshed in their pungent dramas, Ofelia has her own problems of a different sort.

Continue reading: Pan's Labyrinth Review

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Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

Unfolding before viewers' eyes like luxuriantly blooming nightshade, Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is a...

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