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Guillermo del Toro Talks “Political Notions” of Monsters and the “Power of Art to Heal” During MoMA Film Benefit Career Tribute

Guillermo del Toro’s three decades of creative work were honored and celebrated at the Museum of Modern Art’s 15th Annual Film Benefit on Thursday in New York.

During an evening that featured in-person and video messages from Alejandro Iñárritu, Jessica Chastain, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Ewan McGregor, MoMA Chief Curator of Film Rajendra Roy and more friends and collaborators along with a set by the winning artist Grammy award-winning HER, the Oscar-winning director delivered a powerful and sentimental work on his creative vision and love of storytelling.

Stressing that this was a full circle moment after bringing Chronos to MoMA 30 years ago, the The Pan’s Labyrinth The director talked about the films’ personal impact on him, the beauty of art as mystery, and his own style. “One of the purposes of art is to interpret what we know,” he said. “But also, there is an art form that then deals with the impossible… This is the land of the parable, the fable, two of the oldest narrative forms. These are the ones I have chosen. And this is the vernacular that I love.”

Del Toro went on to explain why his work so often touches on monstrosity, an exploration of the literal and metaphorical, in which creatures “are not afraid to wear their imperfections as a badge of honor.”

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Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro

Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

“I think the only way you can be loved is if you’re loved for who you are,” the director said, taking a moment to address his own emotions. “That is why I love monsters and that is why cinema has saved my life so many times. Because these convictions and these images exist in a field beyond words, in a plane that can only be touched by sound and image. I have followed the call of things I cannot name, and I have aspired to dreams and ideas to which I have been faithful, and I have abandoned reason to give birth to monsters. I am in disobedience with reality to find the truth”.

The director also spoke about the power of film, art and fantasy to not only connect people, but also to serve as a light “during very, very dark times” that “really allows us to grasp ideas and concepts that we couldn’t.” embrace or embrace otherwise.”

“The prelude to the totalitarian dictatorship is always preceded by some signs: the rejection of science, the rejection of art as elitism, the enjoyment of popular art as the only thing worth pursuing and, ultimately, the embrace of popular wisdom. that creates hatred and division. and it makes us believe that we are apart and that we are not in this together. This is why normalcy and monsters are intrinsically political notions,” he said.

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“We are on a journey to find the impossible and I believe in the power of art to heal us and make us whole,” he later added. “I think that in times of darkness like now, we seek each other, we find ourselves, only through this because art is a common spirit that we all share.”

Beyond the director’s emotional speech, the evening was a celebration by his fellow artists of del Toro’s personal kindness, creative meticulousness and distinctive love of exploring del Toro’s on-screen monstrosity. That included speeches from crimson peak actress Chastain, nightmare alley Y cabinet of curiosities star Tim Blake Nelson, water shape actor Richard Jenkins and pinocchio voice actors Finn Wolfhard and Gregory Mann.

Guillermo del Toro and Jessica Chastain

Guillermo del Toro and Jessica Chastain

Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

On the event carpet, Chastain recognized del Toro as a fellow artist who cares about social issues and representation in creative storytelling. But he also celebrated his working spirit. “Guillermo is someone that when you get to work and you’re there until 4 in the morning and everyone is exhausted, he says, ‘Let’s shoot again!’ He is very excited to be there,” he said.

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During the event, she explained how she worked until the early hours with the director on the gothic horror romance and how, during a scene involving an angry confrontation between her and crimson peak co-star Mia Wasikowska’s character: del Toro was able to bring out of her the kind of acting the scene called for, much to her delight.

“He told me to fill myself with as much loathing and hate as possible and just see what happens. So I close my eyes and I imagine him giving me that note until 4 am,” she said. “He calls for action. Bam. I banged the pan on a table – eggs go flying into people’s faces and hair. I get up close to Mia’s face and yell like Tom Hanks in Discard screaming for Wilson.”

“In court, I’m trying to calm down. I’m still a bit on the scene. I see Guillermo running towards me and he, with the sweetest voice and the happiest smile, shouts with childish glee: ‘You made my balls get into my body!’” the actress recalled to laughter from the crowd. “Best compliment I’ve ever gotten because I knew if I could scare him so bad that his testicles grew into little arms and legs and he said, ‘I’m out of here,’ and then I got inside his body, I must have. Guillermo del Toro’s seal of approval.

Gregory Mann and Finn Wolfhard

Gregory Mann and Finn Wolfhard at the 5th Annual MoMA Benefit Presented by Chanel

Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

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While onstage with Wolfhard, Mann also celebrated del Toro’s energetic spirit and shared how the creative had never treated him differently because he was a younger artist. “Since the first day I had the honor of working with Guillermo, he has only treated me as an equal, not as a little child, because he himself has an infectious childlike enthusiasm and passion for everything he does,” he said. the pinocchio said the star. “Guillermo is so full of ideas and he has such a clear vision that he brings out the best in everyone around him.”

Unlike Chastain and Mann, Neslon and Jenkins met del Toro later in life, and both told him THR on the event carpet that the director had scouted them for a specific role. For Jenkins, who called the director “open” with his actors and “meticulous” in everything he does, the water shape helmer “never makes a movie just to make a movie. It’s always about something. That is why he is an artist ”.

Jenkins tried to decipher del Toro’s creative aesthetic while discussing an early experience on the set of the 2018 best picture winner. After visiting the soundstage where his character’s library was erected, Jenkins said he asked him to the director where the books and paintings had come from. “It was all his stuff. All of it. So the conclusion I came to is that everything was authentic, but nothing was real,” he said. “This was a piece of art that he had created to fit into this world of the water shape.”

Richard Jenkins Michael Shannon

Richard Jenkins and Michael Shanon

Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

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Acknowledging that he “certainly would have worked with Guillermo before,” Nelson compared the hell boy director to other greats with whom he has collaborated, including the Coen brothers and Steven Spielberg. Calling him a “four quadrant” creative, the actor recognized del Toro’s ability to work with artists such as theater directors and his ability to “handle the huge technical challenges of a movie.”

“In addition, Guillermo has an uninhibited connection with his subconscious, so the images he puts on the screen and the scenarios he writes are ones you have never seen before, could never have imagined, and they come out of the recesses of this one. amazing mind without any editing,” he continued. “And because of his technical prowess, he’s able to figure it out.”

During his onstage remarks, Nelson elaborated on this while talking about his time with del Toro on nightmare alley in a speech that seemingly captured the room’s understanding of the director’s personal and creative power.

“I took intimate instructions from him, not really understanding how it branched out until I saw nightmare alley upon its release, and I understood how, as with all the actors in the film, it made me make sense in a cruel world without my feeling that my character was cruel,” Nelson explained. “Within this amazing man who brings so much terror, fragility, anguish and hope to the screen, is perhaps the most optimistic and generous lover of life I have ever known. Working with him, breaking bread with him, listening to him, being listened to by him, it just makes you better because you always walk away knowing how profoundly lucky you are to be alive.”

tim blake nelson

tim blake nelson

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Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

Chanel, which has supported the event since 2011, served as the title sponsor of the evening, continuing its patronage and preservation of art, film and the boldest and most talented voices in the medium. The annual event, which has honored Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, Tim Burton and Baz Luhrmann in recent years, supports the preservation of films and, more specifically, MoMA’s Film Department, founded in 1935 and which cares for 30,000 films. films and 1.5 million film frames while doubling as one of the strongest international film collections.

For In the woods Y Energy Book III: Raising Kanan actress Patina Miller, del Toro was the perfect choice for an event honoring distinctive voices in film and preserving those voices.

“He is a visionary in what he has been able to do for the medium and the fact that MoMA celebrates him and has taken steps to preserve all of these iconic films in the form that they have, means that as generations continue, I’ll still be able to go back and see his work that people keep talking about,” he said. THR.


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