Guillermo del Toro was in San Francisco Saturday night to accept the Irving M. Levin Directing Award from the San Francisco International Film Festival. Prior to a digital screening of his spooky allegory The Devil's Backbone del Toro engaged in a lively, often profane, always illuminating chat with Film Society exec director Noah Cowan.
Little did we know that his announcement that Silent Hills, his long-gestating video game project, was "dead" would be considered breaking news, and that it would fuel discussion this morning of the freefall of Konami, the game company that would have produced it. And yet it was just one of many tidbits that rose during the pre-movie discussion. Including, but not limited to, the following:
--del Toro's much-derided urban sci-fi/horror opus Mimic underwent further derision, mainly by del Toro himself, who lamented that a movie with a once-brilliant script would be subject to such meddling. And yet he also allowed that all of the movies of his that were successful since improved Mimic, since they allowed one to better understand his vision, and see elements of it poking out in moments of that troubled film.
--Talking creature design, del Toro allowed that he never let his movies be influenced by other movies. That rather than watch other monster movies to spur his own imagination, he found more substantive and original inspiration in visual art, from Bosch and Goya to present-day fantasy artists.
--Bleak House, del Toro's famous library/studio/collectors space, was mentioned numerous time. del Toro allowed that he was forming a foundation to fund an artist residency, keeping Bleak House together after he dies and allowing artists in multiple disciplines to do research and create work there. We're in no hurry to have del Toro leave us, but we can't wait to see the work that Bleak House will inspire.
--Repeated mention was made of del Toro's adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, a steampunk/Western adaptation of Dumas' famous novel undertaken for Francis Ford Coppola. It sounded unlikely to ever happen, but it's damn tantalizing.
--Regarding the dissolution of the Silent Hills project, del Toro seemed to regard it with equanimity, and said that he was pretty much leaving video games behind. His immediate goal, in the wake of the Silent Hills collapse? "Direct, direct, direct."
--Asked by an audience member if he intended to return to San Francisco in the near future, del Toro promised: "I'm gonna get medieval on San Francisco in Pacific Rim 2."
--We got a premiere look at an extended trailer, intended for distributors, for del Toro's forthcoming romance/horror movie Crimson Peak. The stunning imagery, including the gorgeous interior sets and the vague but truly frightening shapes that slithered through them, whetted our already strong excitement for the movie, which brings del Toro's Gothic sensibilities (which inform even his big-budget offerings like Pacific Rim) firmly to the fore, turning from Jane Austen in its first half to Bluebeard in its second.
--del Toro wrapped up the evening expressing his genuine concern over the situation in Mexico, and entreated the audience to keep abreast of developments, to discuss and share what they discovered. So here you go.