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The magic and melancholy of master filmmaker Guillermo del Toro

Trying to stitch together creative jigsaw puzzles Nightmare alleyIt’s hard to get started anywhere other than Tod Browning FreaksIn the 1932 movie, which was considered so scary when first released, it was shortened by 30 minutes in the United States and completely banned in the United Kingdom.like Nightmare alley A grotesque study of human darkness set in the wild world of carnival entertainment.What was made Freaks Unique and worrisome at the time was that Browning used a real entertainment performer.

Even now, when you enter Del Toro’s office, you will find life-sized statues of two stars. Johnny Eck was an early 20th century carnival entertainment performer born without a lower body, entertainment was “Half-Boy”, and another carnival entertainment performer Koo Koo was born with Virchow-Seckel syndrome Minnie Woolsey. He was very short and had a small head, so he was charged “Koo” for entertainment. -Coo the Bird Girl “.

Guillermo del Toro, who took the stage with actors Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett during the filming of Nightmare Alley.credit:Searchlight Pictures

But when it comes to Nightmare alley On the screen, Deltoro says he consciously tried not to fall into the trap of reference. Freaks Too direct. “I thought that was what people thought was what I was trying to do with pure muscle reflexes,” says Del Toro. Instead, he devoted himself to another lesser-known piece of Browning, Fast workerAbout the life of a skyscraper seeking emotional and financial stability. “So it’s Tod Browning, but not the way you expect.”

On the other side of Cooper’s Stan, when the film falls in the middle and the last third, there is Cate Blanchett, who plays the role of the film’s femme fatale, psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter. It’s a dazzling performance reinforced by the clarity of Blanchett’s understanding and the richly stylized set that seems to be a slow and careful ballet cambre in the midst of the Art Deco Museum’s work.

“It’s the intelligence that matters to me, the intelligence that’s included, and I think Kate is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and brings it to every part.” Del Toro says. “It was like a double take. Why has she never done it? [a role like this before]?? Because she was born to literally play that role.

“The same is true for Bradley,” Deltoro adds. “I don’t think he’s done the gravity and darkness he brings to Stan, and he makes him a reality, given his behavior, movement, duration, and intelligence. When I was going to get Cate Blanchett, I called Bradley and told King Kong to meet your Godzilla, and I said, you’re in the city together. Will destroy blocks and blocks. “

One of the most interesting aspects of Nightmare alley In other words, for filmmakers who mainly produce original works, this was not only a novel, but also a 1947 film starring the iconic film actor Tyrone Power as Stan on Del Toro’s desk. It means that it was brought. (Reflecting William Lindsay Gresham’s original work in 2010, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dilda said: Nightmare alley An eerie and miserable masterpiece. “

Edmund Goulding, the director of the 1947 film, told the story of the book by then 20th Century Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanack to brighten the tone of the film and provide a slightly different ending. I was instructed to make some changes. When he sat down to write a new script, Del Toro says he had no doubt that he wanted to remain true to Gresham’s original ending.

“Bradley, Kim’s way [Morgan, the film’s co-writer, and del Toro’s wife] And I talked about it, we always talked about our calculations, “says Deltro. “As we always said, the whole movie is the last two minutes of prologue. And you don’t have [someone like] When you come to the studio and come to the actor, you say, look, the ending is not a big deal. If we test it and people want to burn the theater, that’s it.

“It’s not an edgy whim, it’s not a dark whim. It’s a film that resonates with today’s anxiety, truth, lies, beliefs, perceptions, a closed system of reaffirmations of prejudice, rising and rising propaganda. How do you end up with something other than the truth? ”Deltro adds. “You show the man the truth of his life, unchanged, he just gets worse. And in the last two minutes, all the masks come off and there are wonderful moments.”

There is one fork. In this book, as Stan develops the act of mentalism, he transforms professionally into Rev. Carlyle. And in the book, Gresham seemed to consciously want to say something about the idea of ​​how fear would be used as a tool for the commercialization of faith. However, in Deltoro’s adaptation, Stan takes the stage name “Great Stanton”. This seems to cast him as a magician rather than a false prophet.

“It’s what I called the Elmer Gantry part of the novel, and I think it’s been done perfectly a few times already,” says Del Toro, referring to the 1960 movie. El MargantryAbout credit scammers and female evangelists selling religions to small American towns, based on the Sinclair Lewis novel. (This movie won the Best Adaptation Award in 1961 and the Best Adaptation Award.)

“What I haven’t seen is a man who is a predator of people seeking certain comforts,” Deltoro adds. And that’s a topic he feels familiar with. In 1997, his father, Federico del Trotores, was kidnapped in Guadalajara and detained for 72 days before the ransom was paid.

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“Very early, some psychics appear to talk to my mother, and they know where your husband is, if you believe us we will give you You can take me there, “Deltro recalls. “And I remember telling you to leave the house and run away. But I saw my mother keep that hope, so I see this effect first hand. And for me it’s not discourse. “

Deltoro added that he left his watch when his father died in 2018. “What I tried was the first time in my life that my dad noticed that his wrist was smaller than me,” says Del Toro.

“I don’t know how or why this is important, but it’s in this movie,” he adds. “And as a storyteller, I remember having to talk about what I believe and what I feel is true. When I tell a story, it resonates with the people in Ether and there. And I think it will inspire those who are, and if it is true to you, it will resonate beautifully, even if it is hostile. “

Nightmare Alley Primer

Frankenstein (1931)
Blueprints for all monster movies, and a very influential piece of Guillermo del Toro. Adapted from a stage play based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein The story of a human monster. It’s a central plot point, and the next story reflects how a man’s ambitions and ego unleash a monster, and that monster returns and destroys him. Nightmare alley..

Freaks (1932)
A year after he directed Universal’s now iconic horror masterpiece Dracula (1931) Tod Browning directed this controversial film for MGM. The story of the cruel operation of entertainment performer Hans (Harry Arles) by the beautiful trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Bakranova).

Fast worker (1933)
Probably the best movie of Browning, with one humiliating footnote. Freaks A year ago, it meant that MGM didn’t give him on-screen credits. Fast worker, Based on John McDermott’s play rivetIs the story of skyscraper construction workers, especially Conman’s Gunner Smith (John Gilbert), his buddy Backer Riley (Robert Armstrong), and Mary (Mae Clarke) digging gold.

Nightmare alley (1947)
Edmund Goulding oversees the adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel by Jules Furthman. In this version of the film, Tyrone Power plays Stan Carlyle, Joan Blondell plays the clairvoyant Gina, and Helen Ritter plays the psychologist Lilith Ritter. With a tragic footnote, Gresham walked his life in 1962 in the same room at Hotel Carter in New York. Nightmare alley.. (The hotel was closed in 2014.)

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The magic and melancholy of master filmmaker Guillermo del Toro

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