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    Staller Double Feature

    Last Friday the Staller’s Main Stage Theatre screened “The Good German” and then “Pan’s Labyrinth” to an almost full house of 1,050 seats. Before the films will be reviewed, I would like to say that it is a shame many of you have not seen a film there. Every time I have gone, the seats are mostly filled by non-SBU students; instead, local senior citizens and local high school students populate the theater. There is too wide an audience age gap.

    Understandably, you anticipate going home for the weekend before Friday night; but there is no other venue on Long Island that has as impressive a theater as the Staller Center. The screen is similar to IMAX dimensions, the floors and seats are clean, the sound system is top quality, and the tickets are only $5 for students. It is an opportunity for all of you to experience.

    Maybe some of the films don’t sound interesting or have already been seen at your local Loews. Or if it’s a foreign film, you’d rather not read subtitles. This last reason is a poor excuse because the letters are large enough for the grandmothers to see.

    This last weekend’s double feature was the finale of the Spring semester series. In the fall, before it gets too cold, I recommend you attend at least one film. In time, if enough students come, the audience will be more balanced and thus reflect how appreciated this venue is by those who have the greatest access to it. And remember, the trains still run Saturday mornings.

    “The Good German” was an exercise in recreating a film similar in conventions to those of the post-World War II era. The genre of film noir has been renovated in the decades since, but they are merely updated versions, like “The Black Dahlia” and “Double Indemnity.” “Good Night and Good Luck” is considered the closest a film has come to those old styles of lighting and language. “The Good German” is interesting and flatters its predecessors, yet has its own mistakes as well.

    Steven Soderbergh’s style of humor is best reflected in the “Ocean’s” Trilogy. His charming sarcasm and irony is well-executed by his actors. However, bringing his unique dark humor to film noir makes “The Good German” more of a parody than a copy. He uses the stereotypes of the unknowing protagonist, the femme fatale, the Soviet antagonist, and even the Jewish businessman. Tobey Maguire is a sweet-faced, puppy-eyed military personnel chauffer with a short temper and greedy objectives. It is a poor foreshadow of the latest “Spiderman’s” evil turn.

    There are not many male actors of today that can pass for a 1940s or 1950s film appearance. George Clooney can, though not to be compared with those like Cary Grant or Gregory Peck. He has his own look. Through the entire film he is in literal darkness as he tries to simultaneously solve a murder and protect his German ex-girlfriend. Kate Blanchett as Lena Brandt is the best of this ensemble. Her accent, costume, hair and manner were well-matched to the character. And it is she who has the best one-liner of the script.

    The opening titles feature the older Warner Bros. logo and ‘newsreel’ footage of cement rubble in the streets of Berlin and its common citizens. The Oscar-nominated epic score is played in every other scene, even if just for a few bars. These two elements are most like the films it wishes to represent. “The Good German” is interesting to watch but you won’t need to pay attention to the story. Its humor has a little shock value for being politically incorrect. “The Good German” is a good enough throwback to film history.

    “Pan’s Labyrinth” was the highlight of the evening. At the 2007 Academy Awards, the film won three Oscars for Cinematography, Art Direction, and Makeup and was nominated for Best Musical Score, Original Script, and Foreign Film. In total, it has won well over a few dozen awards and nominations around the world. Director Guillermo Del Toro had achieved great success.

    The opening story is that of an ancient world beneath the earth’s surface that sustained a variety of creatures for centuries. The young princess dreamed of seeing the human world and left her home. Her father vowed to stay alive until her return. The returning princess’ soul is inside that of young Ofelia. Her mother has remarried the ruthless Spanish Captain Vidal and is expecting the birth of their son very soon. Together and with Vidal’s high ranking officials, they live in large home in the forest amongst the Captain’s revolutionary enemies. Nearby is the ancient labyrinth entrance to the princess’ true home.

    Although the trailer shows more of Ofelia’s fantastical journey, the majority of the scenes are set in the physical world of Spain 1944. There is a well created complexity to each character though their purpose is straightforward. For example, Mercedes is more than a housemaid and cook; she is another mother to Ofelia and a mole for the revolutionaries. Those men who are rebelling against Vidal are family men risking their lives for their philosophies. Even Vidal has his own inner demons and struggles.

    The digital design of the otherworldly creatures is truly professional and well-imagined. Ofelia’s guides easily morph from dragonflies to fairies. A plant root had been humanized. The costume and makeup for the faun was a unique idea of a legend’s illustration.

    Mercedes’ lullaby is one of the most beautiful scores in the last few years. It has a traditional and soothing quality but also a haunting undertone. Throughout the film your emotions are brought out and you typically wish for the antagonist to lose. The young girl who played Ofelia, Ivana Baquero, is only thirteen years old but she has the talent to make more of a name for herself. It is assumed that as she gets older she will choose and succeed at challenging roles. “Pan’s Labyrinth” was a wonderful dreamscape.

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