Today: February 29, 2024

Pinocchio

For many, the biggest issue with streaming services is they create some interesting films and shows but there is never a way for people who love to have a physical collection to own them. They were created for streaming and there will they reside, until such time as the residuals cost the service too much and they are deleted, permanently never to be seen again.

But every now and then, Netflix seems to have a rather fortuitous relationship with the Criterion Collection. It is with them that some of the best Netflix originals such as, Roma, Beasts of No Nation and The Irishman have found their way onto physical media. And now they have added Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio to that list.

Adapting Carlo Collodi’s beloved story of the puppet brought to life and desperate to become a real boy, del Toro teams with co-director Mark Gustafson to bring Pinocchio to life in glorious stop-animation. On the surface it would be easy to assume this is Netflix cashing in on their kid market but this Pinocchio is a dark parable that makes Disney’s original 1940’s adaption look positively tame by comparison.

When his son Carlo is killed by a stray bomb during World War I, Geppetto (David Bradley) carves a puppet who is brought to life and guided by Cricket Sebastian (Ewan McGregor). As Pinocchio (Gregory Mann) tries to navigate the world he now lives in he soon learns being ‘real’ comes with significant burdens.

This is quintessential del Toro, a dark fairy tale brought to life with a macabre sense of the Grimm. When Geppetto first creates the puppet he does so in a drunken stupor that has elements of Frankentstein creating his monster. And once Pinocchio comes to life he does so with a gothic unease. His movement is alien and unsettling. As with his masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro uses fairy tales and war as a way of lifting the lid on the darkest elements of humanity. This isn’t a sanitised children’s film, this is the kind of film for kids that were made in the 1980s, the kind that are intended to traumatise and scare, in the best way possible.

Of course, coming as part of the Criterion Collection this release is chock full of director approved extras. The man himself, del Toro features heavily in the documentaries on offer and it is through his passionate affection of both story and medium that it becomes clear that this was a labour of love for the director.  A story that hearing him speak echoes throughout the film when looked at through the eyes of Geppetto’s perfectionist ways. 

A heartfelt and often dark little story, Pinocchio uses stop-animation to staggering effect and conjures something uniquely artistic.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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