4 September 2018

Mutey And The Beast

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The Shape Of Water really does bring new meaning to the phrase 'sleeping with the fishes'. I hate to sound bitter but it is a massive slap in the face when even a fucking swamp-monster manages to pull with more ease than I do. Set in 1962, the film tells the story of a mute person working as a cleaner played by Sally Hawkins as she finds an aquatic-man-thing locked up in the secret Government building she's working at. Over the course of the movie the two form a bond and ultimately fall in love.. which really rubs dirt into the wound of my own parents' divorce. My Mum and Dad couldn't find anything in common after twenty years of marriage and yet here a fishman manages to form a connection with a woman simply because she sneaks him the odd snack whilst at work. Of course I'm all for office romances but it's unusual for one of the happy couple to have fucking gills. All of this is of course going on behind the back of Michael Shannon's head of security who simply wants to cut the creature up because, despite his claims that he wants to learn from it, he really just fucking hates it. Usually you might imagine he'd encourage his colleagues to take their work home with them, but he does seem somewhat less impressed when that work is a fish-monster, and what they want to do is to shove it up themselves. I can appreciate it might be tricky for Hawkins' mute cleaner to find a boyfriend, but perhaps she should try Tinder before literally taking the advice of 'hopping onto Plenty Of Fish'.

I heard somebody the other day describe this film as being “like Free Willy but if at the end of the movie the boy had fucked the whale” and they're not exactly wrong. However to dwell on the ridiculousness of the woman fancying the creature is to ignore everything else on offer. It's like judging an entire box of fortune cookies that somehow contain new insightful and exclusive messages from Plato, Socrates, and Descartes simply because you cracked one open that said, “You will find happiness by stuffing a fish up your vagina”. Beyond anything else the movie is also a love letter to film, with its dreamlike logic that makes the whole thing work. Whether it's a song and dance number that harkens back to Hollywood's Golden Age or the very fact that Hawkins mute lead occasionally feels like a nod towards the silent films of yesteryear, it's clear that director Guillermo Del Toro is as in love with cinema as Hawkins is her fish-man. As ever, Del Toro is also a man completely in love with his monsters too. For most people, Universal's classic The Creature From The Black Lagoon would be a horror in which some jungle explorers stumble across a monster that ends up attacking them. However there's an interview in which Del Toro described it as a home invasion film in which the humans invade the creatures home and then kill him as he attempts to defend it. In many ways The Shape Of Water is an unofficial sequel to the way in which he sees that film and had the creature not died.

Adding to this love of film is the not-so-subtle metaphor of Hawkins' flat being located directly above a cinema. Her walls are coloured with blues and greens, with the light from below finding its way through her floorboards to give her room an underwater feel that suggests she already belongs with the fish-man. Her window here is also a reference to the 1948 Powell and Pressburger classic The Red Shoes which is only reinforced earlier on in which she admires a pair of red shoes in a shop window. I suppose this also references The Wizard Of Oz and the shoes that Dorothy wears to get home in after nonchalantly stealing them from a stranger that she'd killed, however I think the main point is in emphasising how the film uses the colour red to symbolise love and desire. Interestingly the window in her flat is so large that it connects to her neighbour-and-friend Richard Jenkins' room which might hint towards the team they make and how they need each other to form a complete person. I know that I don't share a window with my neighbours and so rather than saving a fish-monster with them, I tend to just bang on the wall and tell them to 'shut the fuck up'. Alas, two might be company but three is even better and so this gang is completed with Hawkins' cleaner friend Octavia Spencer with the trio representing those that have 'slipped through the cracks'. Individually they're a mute woman, a black woman, and a gay man, whose lives would have been made tricky by the bullshit of 1962. However together they represent one big middle finger to what School Of Rock's equally fishy sounding Dewey Finn would call 'The Man'.

Del Toro claims that the film takes place in 1962 because he essentially wanted to set it during 'troubled times' that would reflect what's happening today but with enough distance that he can imbue it with a fairytale feeling. As such, the real demon of the film is not the scaly fucker from the swamp but the festering rage monster of toxic masculinity that's played to perfection by the bug-eyed Shannon. In The Creature From The Black Lagoon, the chisel-jawed white man would be the hero, however here he may as well be wearing a 'Make America Great Again' hat whilst ranting on Twitter in compensation for the short comings of his shrivelled little pig-dick. A theme of the film is the advocation of being progressive, with the colour green we're told being the colour of 'the future'. In fact Jenkins character often frequents a little cafe to flirt with the man at the counter with his meal of choice being a bright green Key lime pie. The fact that this pie tastes disgusting might give us a clue as to the other man's true-self. Shannon hates the colour green with the passion of a person that you can only assume was once raped by the swinging cock of the Incredible Hulk. He's told that he should buy the car of the future but only considers it after being informed that it's actually teal and that driving it will impress people. He's also constantly eating green sweets that he admits are for when he's nervous and in his mind contain no real nutritional value. Let's not forget too that along with our trio of heroes all the merman wants is to be treated with respect. With his green skin representing the wealth of knowledge that his discovery offers us, it's telling that all Shannon wants to do is kill him and therefore our progress. Like a sheep that's being forced to look over a cliff by a randy welshman, the idea of 'moving forward' is simply something that Shannon can sadly not conceive of doing.

One of Del Toro's favourite films is the 1946 La Belle et la BĂȘte, or as those of you who are less pretentious might call it Beauty And The Beast. You fucking philistines. In his previous film Crimson Peak, he was able to recreate the haunted castle and period of that film, however here he's able to go full bestiality in a way that Disney's live-action Beauty And The Beast recently pussied out on. The central romance avoids being ridiculous by working within the world of the film and being more about two forgotten people finding happiness than it is grand gestures and schmaltz. Because of his use of monsters, I feel that Del Toro is often wrongly labelled as a horror director when clearly he's more interested in fairytales and fables. Obviously Shannon is representative of everything wrong with America in that he tramples all over anybody that's either a minority or marginalised, whilst an injury to his fingers shows him to be both rotten and rotting away. Don't worry though because he still has his 'pussy finger' apparently which is presumably the one that he uses to 'grab' women by. Below Hawkins' flat, the cinema is showing the 1960 biblical epic The Story Of Ruth which, like this film, tell the story of a love that changes everybody involved. Del Toro has spoken about the similarities of love and water in that both take the shape of what they inhabit and both have the ability to break down barriers. The Shape Of Water might be set in 1962 and feature Abe Sapien's hotter older brother falling in love but it's couldn't be more relevant or meaningful today if it tried. Although if all you can see it as is The Little Merman Makes A Porno then I guess that sounds pretty fucking good too. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time. 


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