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From: Mark Leeper <mleeper@optonline.net>
Subject: Review: The Shape of Water (2017)
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Subject: Review: The Shape of Water (2017)
From: Mark Leeper <mleeper@optonline.net>
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               (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

Spoiler Warning: This review gives away a big piece of the plot of 
the film.

    CAPSULE: A military project is examining a captive 
    amphibian-man.  A cleaning woman befriends the amphibian-
    man and decides to try to set him free.  Michael Shannon's 
    performance is a major high spot.  The plot is very, very 
    similar to that of a once well-known play, Paul Zindel's 
    "Let Me Hear You Whisper."  Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) 
    or 6/10

By now Mexican director/writer/producer Guillermo del Toro has been 
around making horror movies such as PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006) and also 
making comic book adaptations.  His comic book films are not my cup 
of tea, but at least they were physically beautiful films.  I 
consider his horror films are generally excellent.  His premier 
film was CRONOS, one of the rare horror films that played the art 
house circuit.  His most recent film, THE SHAPE OF WATER, does not 
fall into either of the previous categories.  It is more a hard-
edged fairy tale. I would say the film has one major problem...

In 1969 and again in 1990 PBS adapted to television Paul Zindel's 
play "Let me Hear You Whisper."  In this story a downtrodden 
cleaning woman in a secret government laboratory finds a dolphin in 
a tank and befriends it.  It has been trained to sing the words to 
"Let Me Call You Sweetheart."  From that song Zindel takes the 
title of the play.  The cleaning woman discovers to her horror the 
dolphin is really being trained to fight wars undersea and be blown 
up with the munitions he carries.  She determines to steal the 
dolphin in a laundry cart and set it free.  That is much like del 
Toro's story but Zindel's name does not appear in the credits of 
the new film.

I will not describe here the plot of THE SHAPE OF WATER, but I will 
let people who have seen the film draw their own conclusions.  Del 
Toro says his inspiration for this film was CREATURE FROM THE BLACK 
LAGOON.  Certainly the amphibian man in this film could be based on 
the Creature.  But I know of no statement from the filmmakers that 
mentions this film and Zindel's play in the same breath.  I did not 
see Zindel's name anywhere in the credits.  I will be interested to 
see how this problem plays out.

Unfortunately, what is original about this film is a mixed bag.  
There are some remarkable visions as we might expect from the 
director of PAN'S LABYRINTH.  But even the images outstay their 
123-minute welcome in what seems like a longer production than was 
needed.  The score by Alexandre Desplat has not much melody, but 
manages a dreamlike quality.

One of the (several) features of the script is an incident of 
sexual abuse and harassment.  I believe there is no way del Toro 
could have known how timely this theme would be when the film was 
released, but it works well for the film.  The film is set in 1962 
and the government doing the best it can fight--clean or dirty--
mostly dirty--to oppose the Soviets who are happy to fight just as 

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, the cleaning woman who is 
separated from most other people by being a mute.  Michael Shannon 
plays well in a part much like his previous work in "Boardwalk 
Empire."  He makes an all-purpose villain and exudes an air of 
menace.  Elisa's best friend is Octavia Spencer, who shone in 
HIDDEN FIGURES and this season is in both this film and in GIFTED.

If I had to choose the two most creative horror directors I would 
choose Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Guillermo del Toro.  I am sorry to see 
del Toro resorting to uncredited near-remakes of other people's 
stories.  Still the film is engrossing and visual enough that I 
rate THE SHAPE OF WATER a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper