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December 9, 2006

Y Tu Mama

I saw Pan's Labyrinth for a second time yesterday, and enjoyed it even more. I'm determined to have my Guillermo Del Toro piece done sometime next week, but in the meantime, let me direct you to a source I'll certainly be referencing: Harry Tuttle's three-part vivisection of the film and its symbolism.

I also saw Almodovar's Volver, which isn't necessarily as strong as his last two or three masterpieces but certainly provides the sort of exuberant comfort that even his weakest films manage to provide. Both film, interestingly (and perhaps, as I'll get to momentarily, not coincidentally), have extremely prevalent maternal throughlines. Almodovar's is obvious, of course - the film is about a mother returning (as per the title) from the grave to put things right with her daughter, who has a child of her own. In the press notes, the director lists all the personal returns it signifies to him: to comedy, to his actresses, to his hometown of La Mancha, and ultimately

I have come back to maternity, as the origin of life and ficition. And naturally, I have come back to my mother.

Del Toro's is darker, more troublesome, less literal but no less evident: young Ofelia climbing through the yawning labial roots of a cursed tree, or the red ink that paints itself in bloody uterine splashes within the pages of her magical storybook. Such imagery corellates with - and expands upon - Ofelia's relationship with her own mother, who spends most of the film ailing from a difficult pregnancy. It's a very deliberate visual strategy; in a fantastic Q&A with The Guardian (which I'm also saving for future reference), Del Toro noted that "The idea is that this girl's idea of heaven, ultimately, is to go back into her mother's belly."

Del Toro never loves his female characters more than when they're being maternal; from the little girl taking care of her grandfather in Cronos to Mira Sorvino radiantly waiting for her pregnancy test results in Mimic. Almodovar has never not loved his female characters - more often than not his films are an overt celebration of femininity - but being a gay filmmaker, his lens generally perceives (and adores) women not as objects of desire, but nurturers. The tie that binds, in this case, might be another influence that both filmmakers have attributed a great deal to: their Catholic upbringing, and all the Marian adoration implicit to it (I wrote a little about this earlier in the year, in reference to Abel Ferrara).

Pan's Labyrinth and Volver - what an excellent double-feature for Christmas day! It's certainly a far better holiday option than, say, The Holiday. Which I've also seen. Yeah, yeah, I knew what I was getting myself into. I'm a sucker.

Posted by David Lowery at December 9, 2006 3:40 PM


Thanks for the plug David. :)
Very nice post on this double feature.

I hesitated to mention the sexualized design of the tree and the tunnel, but you're definitely right. I didn't know Del Toro admitted it was his intention to design the fantasyworld after a maternal womb. That's very interesting. Thanks for the link to this Q&A.
Will you write more on it? I'm looking forward to your piece!

Posted by: HarryTuttle at December 10, 2006 1:10 PM

What shall I ask del Toro for you, David? We're talking on Thursday.

Posted by: Maya at December 13, 2006 3:13 AM

Hmmm....let me think of a good one, and I'll e-mail it to you tonight! I'm jealous.

Posted by: Ghostboy at December 13, 2006 4:27 PM