Synopsis: Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro revisits Carlo Collodi’s tale about a puppet that magically comes to life to soothe the heart of a woodcarver named Geppetto. This stop-motion musical fantasy epic directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson follows the adventures of mischievous and disobedient Pinocchio as he searches for his place in the world.
Almost fifteen years after the announcement of the project by Guillermo de Toro, his adaptation of the novel by Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio, premieres on Netflix. If the director is familiar with animation, as a film producer (The Legend of Manolo, 2014) or series creator (Tales of Arcadia, also released on Netflix), this is the first time he has made a feature film in animated image. He is assisted here by Mark Gustafson, an animator known in particular for his participation in Fantastic Mr. Fox by Wes Anderson. The stop-motion animation gives an invaluable cachet to this new Pinocchio. Because not only is the wooden puppet indeed a puppet, on the film set, whose strings someone is pulling, but to which the film gives sufficient autonomy for the public to see it as a “real little boy.” But also because the careful artistic direction gives body and movement to absolutely all the characters and elements of the scenery that make up the film. The slightest detail is an attraction here, counteracting the weariness that could emerge during almost two hours of viewing. Del Toro’s touch shines through immediately in his film. Collodi’s novel has inspired dozens of films and series: from the slightly watered-down cartoon by Walt Disney, recently revisited in live-action on Disney+, to the more bizarre diversion by Steven Spielberg in AI Artificial Intelligence. Guillermo del Toro, however, manages to free himself from these existing proposals and offers a very personal rereading of the history of the skate who wanted to be a boy.
The film strikes from the outset with its dark atmosphere, inspired by the creations and cinephilia of the master of horror. The Pinocchio sculpture scene features a terrifying Geppetto, resembling Doctor Frankenstein. The Woodland Fairy and her sister Death are reminiscent of the mystical creatures of Pan’s Labyrinth.
Lover of monsters, to which he sometimes bestows more humanity than on humans themselves (Hellboy, The Shape of Water), Guillermo del Toro also chooses to make his Pinocchio a wooden being with vegetable looks and bark skin. Impossible to confuse him with the other children of the village. The humanity of little Pinocchio is physically forbidden to him, and it is by his behavior alone that the character will gradually convince us that he is a boy like the others.
The puppet whose nose lengthens as soon as he tells a lie is not stingy with nonsense, which however contrasts with a background steeped in good intentions and an unconditional love for his father and creator. Far from the moralizing accents of the film of the 1940s, the Pinocchio of Netflix certainly shows us a naive, miserly and idle little puppet. But these childish flaws are counterbalanced by the demands of the father. Geppetto searches Pinocchio for his deceased son, Carlo – a fine tribute from the team to the original author – and expects the wooden puppet to copy and replace this missing son. From then on, Pinocchio is confronted with an inevitable imperfection and tries to shine by all means: by becoming the slave of a violent and lying puppeteer, by allowing himself to be enrolled among Mussolini’s young recruits, etc.
Reinscribing the tale in the great Italian history, del Toro forgets the donkeys and instead transforms the young boys into puppets of fascism, into cannon fodder. In this totalitarian context, the permanent disobedience of Pinocchio moreover acquires a salutary, libertarian aspect. Anyone who strays from the path laid out by the rules in force becomes capable of deciding their future.
The themes of mourning and the relationship to death are approached with macabre poetry. Materialized by ghostly eyes, the spirits of the forest show a disturbing omniscience. The world of death is populated by rabbits straight out of a David Lynch fable. Everything is however contrasted by beautiful musical moments, fully integrated into the narration, in the manner of the first Disney feature films. These songs also contribute to a few touches of humor, such as the endlessly interrupted refrain of the cricket Sebastian.
Combining poetry with the great spectacle, the tale with the historical and the morbid with the sublime, Pinocchio composes a marvelous ode to life, in all that is perishable and precious.
- Broadcast: December 9, 2022
- Channel / Platform: netflix
- Directed by: Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson
- With the voices of: Gregory Mann, David Bradley, Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, Burn Gorman, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Tom Kenny
- Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Patrick MacHale, Matthew Robbins
- Producers: Alexander Bulkley, Guillermo del Toro, Corey Campodonico, Lisa Henson, Gary Ungar, Melanie Coombs, Jason Lust, Blanca Lista, Gris Grimly
- Photography : Frank Passingham
- Editing: Ken Schretzmann, Holly Klein
- Graphic design: Gris Grimly
- Animation: Brian Leif Hansen
- Puppeteer: Georgina Hayns
- Music: Alexandre Desplat, Guillermo del Toro, Katz
- Duration: 1 hour 57 minutes
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Pinocchio by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson: review | CineChronicle
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