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General discussion about what's out for the couch.

Tideland pwns Pan's Labyrinth
Topic by: hamano
Posted: September 26, 2007 - 3:16 PM PDT
Last Reply: November 26, 2007 - 9:56 PM PST

author topic: Tideland pwns Pan's Labyrinth
post #1  on September 26, 2007 - 3:16 PM PDT  
I went to see Pan's Labyrinth in a theater buoyed by the wonderful reviews it was getting and I was rather disappointed by it. It felt morally tired or lazy, and the grotesque special effects were neither scary nor revealing.

I remember reading about Tideland about the same time... this film didn't even open locally here, or if it did not long enough to catch my attention. I read a few reviews where it was compared to Pan's Labyrinth unfavorably, and certainly critical reaction was pretty bad.

But it sounded interesting. So I watched it today. And imagine my surprise... it's a great film. American prairie gothic is appreciated by very few people as a legitimate genre, but I happen to like it. It's the anti-"Little House on the Prairie" I guess. Starting with Wyeth's Christina's World (although that painting was of a farm in Maine...) it's an image that's beautifully golden and haunting at the same time. Malick's Days of Heaven and Hallström's What's Eating Gilbert Grape are other films that come immediately to mind.

There was some really hammy acting by the adult actors, including Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly, but I've been watching so much anime that this didn't bother me as much as it probably should have. Jeff Bridges was actually pretty good, as he often is. Jennifer Tilly was channeling Courtney Love through Bride of Chucky but she hilariously died very early in the film.

Terry Gilliam has lots of fun with editing and sound effects, and the cinematography and imagery were fantastic. I often find Gilliam's films, even those acclaimed ones like Brazil and The Fisher King, almost too cluttered visually. I like his taste for flights of fantasy, but they invariably reminded me of the animations he did for Monty Python. In contrast this film seemed almost minimalist, which in this case was "just right"...

There are some obvious similarities to Psycho and Texas Chainsaw here and also Silence of the Lambs, the whole cut'em up and stuff'em thing. I don't think Gilliam meant to directly reference these films, although any GreenCine subscriber would instantly notice the parallels. There's an early scene showing the Jeff Bridges character's fascination with Bog Mummies, morbidly shared with his daughter in the middle of the night. I'm still not sure why embalming/taxidermy is a recurring fascination in American culture, or why it's being used in this film, but there it is. Surprisingly it's one of the less disturbing things dealt with in this film.

Much of the tension which I think turned the critics off is generated by the worry that the 10 year old girl protagonist of the film, Jeliza-Rose, will unwittingly seduce her neighbor and friend Dickens, a young man suffering from brain damage and/or mental disabilities. There's quite a twisted sexual undercurrent to the whole film, so each scene where the two young people play juvenile "kissy kissy" lead inevitably to dread and goosebumps. Nevertheless I enjoyed the performances by these young actors very much.

Tideland is not a film that presents a tidy moral message... there is no black and white, good vs. evil, partisans vs. fascists point being made here, something that was clearly the mission of Pan's Labyrinth. And no happy ending where the protagonist dies to become the princess of some fantasy world. I think Pan's Labyrinth was an allegorical fable about fighting evil, while Tideland is more of a personal reflection on how children have to survive the world left to them by adults.
post #2  on September 26, 2007 - 3:38 PM PDT  
Huh. You make me really, really want to see this one now after I'd forgotten about it again. I did like Pan's Labyrinth but see what you're saying. Definitely have heard Tideland deserves more of a fair shake than it's received, but hope to judge for myself soon.

I even liked Brothers Grimm (Gilliam's previous film) even though it was often a total mess and as always I wanted Gilliam to restrain himself a bit more.
post #3  on October 10, 2007 - 3:33 PM PDT  
Hamano, you had me at "reminiscent of Malick's Days of Heaven." Plus its Gilliam so I guess I'm obliged to see this now.

A whiel back, I remember hearing word about this being a trainwreck of a film and had since forgotten about it. You have definitely renewed my interst. Consider it queued up!
post #4  on October 11, 2007 - 10:28 AM PDT  
Pan's Labyrinth is the better film, but Tideland is worth seeing for the crazy terrygilliamness of it all. I was a bit disappointed with Pan's Labyrinth because I thought there would be more of the otherworldly fantasy element, but Pan's Labyrinth really is a good "life during wartime" film.

I think Gilliam is trying a bit too hard to shock in Tideland.
post #5  on October 11, 2007 - 11:38 AM PDT  
Slightly off subject, but since Days of Heaven was mentioned above, I thought I'd alert you all to the fact that a Criterion Days of Heaven is coming our way later this month! Woo hoo! A beautiful movie made even more beautiful.
post #6  on October 11, 2007 - 9:23 PM PDT  
> On October 11, 2007 - 10:28 AM PDT Cinenaut wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> I was a bit disappointed with Pan's Labyrinth because I thought there would be more of the otherworldly fantasy element, but Pan's Labyrinth really is a good "life during wartime" film.

I've seen a lot better "life during wartime" films, including a cartoon (Grave of the Fireflies). Forbidden Games, A Very Long Engagement, even Realm of the Senses come to mind. Pan's was really heavyhanded with the cast of wartime characters... Fascists are crazy psycho sadists? Well, duh.

As for the fantasy sequences, they didn't have the giddy impact of the ones from Heavenly Creatures, for example. A couple of times it veered toward the creepily intimate texture of Brothers Quay stuff but not quite.

In the end Pan's just left me wanting to see Spirit of the Beehive again. Del Toro was just lucky the younger critics don't remember that film.

> I think Gilliam is trying a bit too hard to shock in Tideland.

Hmmm... I didn't feel it that much... I thought the obvious "shock" moments were really broad and comic almost, and I didn't take them too seriously. They were like funhouse effects (like the scene where the Dad is being embalmed) and grand guignol. They were "real" moments in the sense that it was real to JelizaRose, who at one point imagines the house is underwater, too. I can't remember any scenes where I felt like Gilliam was "trying hard to shock"... I felt "Gilliam is trying to make me laugh"...

The parts that I reacted to viscerally really WEREN'T scenes that were trying to be shocking, I thought. Like the one where JelizaRose was trying to get Dickens to kiss her. And I thought that was a testament to how well these two actors were acting.

Maybe what bugged me was that the fantasy of Pan's Lab was mostly dissociative (Ofelia escaping) and rather pessimistic, while JelizaRose's fantasies were more grounded in stuff that was actually happening. It seemed more real, like a kid playing, as opposed to a kid going insane. I really loved those scenes with the talking dolls' heads...
post #7  on October 12, 2007 - 2:48 PM PDT  
Don't rent either one if you're depressed or in the mood for a feel-good movie.
post #8  on October 12, 2007 - 3:24 PM PDT  
> On October 12, 2007 - 2:48 PM PDT Cinenaut wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Don't rent either one if you're depressed or in the mood for a feel-good movie.
> ---------------------------------

Curiously, I got kind of a "feel good" charge out of Tideland. Both times. I watched it with the director's commentary, too, which was fun if not earth-shaking.

I came out of Pan's Lab feeling, "Well, that was GRIM..." Grim, not Grimm....
post #9  on November 26, 2007 - 9:56 PM PST  
I just saw Tideland and saw PL back when it was out in theaters. I loved both movies and I don't think I would say one is better than the other. Pan's isn't so fresh in my mind now though. Tideland had less of the makeup/puppetry I come to expect from Gilliam, except for the corpses which weren't really in the film much or even animated. However, I really enjoyed both. If I had to pick one over the other I would pick Pan's simply because it was more enthralling/entertaining and I like moveies with a little violence in them. Gilliam's is more thoughtful/cerebral I think, and it takes a little more attention and patience to get into it. Hard to compare really. See both!

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