Book Review: Guillermo del Toro: The Iconic Filmmaker and his Work
Guillermo del Toro is an endlessly fascinating filmmaker and human being. His films are phantasmagorical and meticulous in their details, particularly the art direction. The fantasies he brings to screen — both his big-budget studio films and more personal, artistic stories — are often melancholy and beautiful.
Furthermore, del Toro knows how to portray the experiences of the Other, crafting those tales with equal measures of brutality and intimacy. His villains are complex, nuanced, and often tortured companion foils to his heroes and antiheroes. He has an uncanny ability to capture the essence of humanity as well as what just may be beyond the veil, or an idea or what that could be. It’s a rare ability of what’s out of reach for most of us, and that’s just one reason why his work is endlessly re-watchable.
Simply put, del Toro is one of the world’s greatest, most inspiring filmmakers.
So when I was given an opportunity to review the new book, “Guillermo del Toro: The Iconic Filmmaker and his Work” from Ian Nathan (a masterful U.K. film writer), I had to check it out.
Out now from White Lion Publishing (an imprint of The Quarto Group), I was delighted to discover that the hardcover book comes in a respectful, rigid slipcase to protect its subject matter. The unauthorized biography offers 176 pages printed on beautiful paper stock, graced with 150 full-color images. There’s even an eight-page gatefold section that features a timeline of the maestro’s work in television and film in his varied roles.
“Guillermo del Toro” begins with a compulsory introduction and then moves on with an overview of his childhood in the Mexican suburb near Guadalajara, entranced in the dualities of oppressive Catholicism and joyous monster magazines. We learn how the family won the lottery and his father started a Chrysler dealership. Material comforts afforded the young del Toro the ability to collect comics and frequent trips to local movie screenings, where he sought out international general films.
Even more instrumental to his beginnings as a filmmaker, was the ability to start experimenting with homegrown special effects. One of the funniest passages in the book (annotated from Titan Books’ “Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth”):
“'My brother and I would do full human figures with clay and Plasticine — liver, intestines, the heart — fill them with ketchup and throw them from the roof,’ he recalled happily. ‘So I was an artistic, but very morbid kid.’”
Then we’re on to film school and the eventual road to his brilliant first feature, Cronos, followed not long after the horrific experience he had with the notorious Weinsteins on his first American film, Mimic. The book goes all the way to our current, insane year, 2021 and delves a little into del Toro’s upcoming releases, Nightmare Alley and Pinocchio.
Here’s the table of contents by chapter:
Once Upon a Time in Mexico: The Early Years & Chronos (1993)
Tunnel Vision: Mimic (1997)
Unfinished Business: The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Blood Rush: Blade II (2002)
Big Red: Hellboy (2004) & Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Rights of Passage: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
High Concept: Pacific Rim (2013)
Freak House: Crimson Peak (2015)
The Love Aquatic: The Shape of Water (2017)
The Weaver of Dreams: Nightmare Alley (2021) & Pinocchio (2021)
My only complaint is that “Guillermo del Toro” needed a more eagle-eyed copy editor; here and there, I found errors like a word missing out of a sentence. Overall, this is a terrific book with insightful, eloquent writing from Nathan that fed my artistic soul. I learned a lot and really enjoyed this delightful book on one of my favorite filmmakers. No doubt, plenty of other del Toro and general film fans and students will, as well.
To add this to your collection or to give as a sure-to-be-coveted holiday gift, find out where to buy this awesome book here.