Visionario: The Films of Guillermo del Toro
April 19–July 2
With his ambitious new film PACIFIC RIM set to open July 12, this spring is the perfect time to celebrate and explore the unique artistry of Mexico’s Guillermo del Toro.
An avid fan of comic books, fantasy and horror while growing up, del Toro started in movies as a special effects makeup artist. His films are distinguished by exquisite art direction, makeup effects and cinematography (PAN’S LABYRINTH won Oscars in all three categories), and a strong visual sensibility well acquainted with pulp fiction, genre tradition and folklore.
Where other genre filmmakers might rely too heavily on non-stop action, violent content, green-screen acting and CGI effects, del Toro has been judicious in their use, privileging old-school makeup wizardry and animatronic models. An accomplished screenwriter, del Toro also stands out for his unabashed emotionalism and delight in allegory.
Not only a writer/director on his own films but a prolific producer of others, del Toro has shepherded the work of younger filmmakers like Juan Antonio Bayona, contemporaries like Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso and Carlos Cuarón, plus a number of animation filmmakers, working in both feature film and television. This spring, come visit the weird and wonderful world of Guillermo del Toro at AFI Silver.
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all films in the Guillermo del Toro series.
Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi), a kindly old Mexico City antiques dealer, discovers a mysterious artifact: a gilded mechanical scarab containing a still-living insect. Accidentally, Jesus trips the device’s mechanism and learns its terrible secret: it injects its holder with an immortality potion, one with vampiric side effects. When a dying American millionaire sets his sights on the device, he dispatches his brutish nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to beat the secret of immortality out of Jesus. Del Toro’s debut displays all of his cinematic trademarks—an innovative take on established tropes in horror, fantasy and folklore; captivating imagery; Gothic atmospherics leavened with droll humor; and emotionally affecting characters and storytelling.
DIR/SCR Guillermo del Toro; PROD Arthur Gorson, Bertha Navarro. Mexico, 1993, color, 94 min. In English and Spanish with English subtitles. RATED R
Fri, Apr 19, 9:45; Sat, Apr 20, 9:45; Sun, Apr 21, 9:20; Tue, Apr 23, 9:20; Thu, Apr 25, 9:10
Although Hollywood interference left del Toro disillusioned at working within the studio system, his first US film is an imaginative and suspenseful creature feature. Mira Sorvino stars as entomologist Susan Tyler, who famously saved New York from a deadly cockroach epidemic by genetically engineering a “Judas Breed” to infiltrate and eliminate the bug population. But three years later, the Judas Breed has survived, evolved at an exponential rate and taken up residence in New York’s labyrinthine subway system. And these critters aren’t just cockroaches anymore—they’ve learned to mimic the appearance and behavior of any other creature, including humans.
DIR/SCR Guillermo del Toro; SCR Matthew Robbins, from the story by Donald A. Wollheim; PROD Ole Bornedal, B. J. Rack, Bob Weinstein. US, 1997, color, 105 min. RATED R
Fri, Apr 26, 10:20; Tue, Apr 30, 9:20
Guillermo del Toro returned to the vampire lore of his first film (CRONOS) to put his own audacious spin on the sequel to BLADE,
based on the half-vampire, half-human superhero
from Marvel Comics.
Dedicated vampire hunter
Blade (Wesley Snipes)
must join forces with his
enemies (including del
Toro favorite Ron Perlman)
to fight the greater threat
of the Reapers, a mutated
super-race of bloodsuckers
intent on destroying both humans and vampires alike. Screenplay by THE DARK KNIGHT’s David S. Goyer. “BLADE II is a really rather brilliant vomitorium of viscera, a comic book with dreams of becoming a textbook for mad surgeons.” – Roger Ebert.
DIR Guillermo del Toro; SCR David S. Goyer, based on the character created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan; PROD Peter Frankfurt, Patrick J. Palmer, Wesley Snipes. US/Germany, 2002, color, 117 min. RATED R
THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE [El espinazo del diablo]
Sat, Apr 27, 9:30; Mon, Apr 29, 9:20; Wed, May 1, 9:10
“What is a ghost? A tragedy doomed to repeat itself time and again?” Produced by Pedro Almodóvar’s El Deseo company and inspired by the popular Spanish comic “Paracuellos,” Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish Civil War-set ghost story deftly mixes Gothic horror, psychological suspense and rich allegory. Orphaned during the last days of the Civil War, a 12-year-old boy named Carlos looks for refuge at a home for children of the Republican militia. Despite warnings about the presence of ghosts, Carlos explores the rambling hacienda and its grounds, but soon comes face to face with a spirit from the next world, and uncovers a horrible secret from this one.
DIR/SCR Guillermo del Toro; SCR Antonio Trashorras, David Muñoz; PROD Agustín Almodóvar, Bertha Navarro. Spain/Mexico, 2001, color, 106 min. In Spanish with English subtitles. RATED R
Fri, May 3, 9:30; Sat, May 4, 9:30; Tue, May 7, 9:20
From the Dark Side to Our Side. Del Toro proved to be an inspired choice to bring Mike Mignola’s acclaimed comic book character to the big screen, as did casting Ron Perlman as the gruff but big-hearted red demon, Hellboy. (Perlman, no stranger to elaborate makeup and costuming, spent much of his early career in leonine makeup on TV’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST). Summoned from the fiery depths by Nazi occultists in the final days of WWII, rescued by an Allied platoon and raised by kindly Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt) to fight for good, Hellboy is now the premier agent in the top-secret Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Hellboy faces his greatest test when several of the Nazis return from a sojourn in hell, intent on turning him against the human race and unleashing an apocalyptic evil. With Selma Blair, Karel Roden, Doug Jones and Jeffrey Tambor.
DIR/SCR Guillermo del Toro, from the comic book by Mike Mignola; PROD Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Mike Richardson. US, 2004, color, 122 min. RATED PG-13
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
Sat, May 18, 10:20; Sun, May 19, 4:15; Mon, May 20, 9:10
Del Toro’s sequel outdoes the original, with eye-popping, jaw-dropping special effects, a story with deep-dish folkloric underpinnings, brisk pacing and a breezy sense of humor. With the exiled elf prince Nuada (Luke Goss) seeking to start a war with the human race, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his pals Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) must use not only their mighty powers but also their wits to stave off disaster. “This spectacular movie seethes and fizzes with wit and energy, absorbing and transforming influences such as GHOSTBUSTERS and even Harry Potter and the secret world of Diagon Alley.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.
DIR/SCR Guillermo del Toro, from the comic book by Mike Mignola; PROD Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Mike Richardson. US/Germany, 2008, color, 120 min. RATED PG-13
PAN’S LABYRINTH [El laberinto del fauno]
Fri, May 24, 7:15; Sat, May 25, 9:15; Sun, May 26, 9:15
Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic fairy tale tells a parable in two worlds: one, rural Spain during the early postwar dictatorship of Franco; the other, a magical realm of legend and folklore. Lonely Ofelia, unhappy that her widowed mother has remarried the
cruel Captain Vidal and relocated them to a desolate part of the country, discovers a portal to a fantasy world hidden beneath their home. Ultimately, Ofelia must learn to navigate both worlds, to distinguish between danger and delights, and to defend herself against monsters both real and imagined. Nominated for six Oscars, winning for Cinematography, Art Direction and Makeup.
DIR/SCR/PROD Guillermo del Toro; PROD Álvaro Augustín, Alfonso Cuarón, Bertha Navarro, Frida Torresblanco. Spain/Mexico/US, 2006, color, 118 min. In Spanish with English subtitles. RATED R
THE ORPHANAGE [El orfanato]
Fri, Jun 7, 10:00; Sat, Jun 8, 9:30; Sun, Jun 9, 9:30; Wed, Jun 12, 7:00
Guillermo del Toro executive produced this accomplished debut feature from director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez (THE IMPOSSIBLE). Laura (Belén Rueda), a former resident of an orphanage where an unspeakable tragedy once occurred, returns to the abandoned property with her husband and son. But the family soon discovers that they are not alone there. Sensitive performances and exquisite attention to detail make for an artfully creepy and atmospheric tale. Winner of seven Goya Awards and the Audience Award, 2008 European Film Awards; Official Selection, 2007 Cannes, Toronto and New York Film Festivals.
DIR Juan Antonio Bayona; SCR Sergio G. Sánchez; PROD Álvaro Augustín, Joaquín Padró, Mar Targarona. Spain/ Mexico, 2007, color, 105 min. In Spanish with English subtitles. RATED R
Fri, Jun 14, 9:20; Sat, Jun 15, 3:45; Mon, Jun 17, 7:10
This year’s surprise hit at the box office—like its close cousin, THE ORPHANAGE, executive produced by Guillermo del Toro—is a supernatural thriller that boasts a charismatic turn by Jessica Chastain, the redhead nearly unrecognizable here as a raven-haired punk rocker. Chastain unexpectedly finds herself playing stepmom to two badly traumatized little girls, her boyfriend’s nieces, reduced to a near-feral state after going missing and mysteriously surviving five years in a cabin in the woods. It turns out that a ghostly presence cared for the girls during this time, a ghost mama with her own separation anxiety and abandonment issues, and she’s not about to relinquish custody just yet.
DIR/SCR Andrés Muschietti; SCR Neil Cross, Barbara Muschietti; PROD J. Miles Dale, Barbara Muschietti. Spain/Canada, 2013, color, 100 min. RATED PG-13
JULIA’S EYES [Los ojos de Julia]
Sat, Jun 29, 9:45; Mon, Jul 1, 3:00; Tue, Jul 2, 9:45
Reuniting with the production team behind THE ORPHANAGE, del Toro produced this ode to Hitchcockian suspense and Argento-tinted giallo, anchored by a bravura performance
from THE ORPHANAGE star Belén Rueda. Suffering from the same degenerative eye disease as her recently deceased twin sister, Julia (Rueda) refuses to let her failing vision stop her from uncovering the truth behind her sister’s suspicious death. With suffocating cinematography by Óscar Faura (THE IMPOSSIBLE), the film puts viewers behind Julia’s eyes, the claustrophobia of impending blindness ratcheting up the tension until the film’s gasp- inducing finale.
DIR/SCR Guillem Morales; SCR Oriol Paulo; PROD Guillermo del Toro, Juan Carlos Caro, Joaquín Padró, Mar Targarona, José Torrescus
Sun, Jun 30, 7:00; Mon, Jul 1, 9:30