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Featured Review: Pan's Labyrinth 

Pan’s Labyrinth  Let’s make this clear from the start: Pan’s Labyrinth is not one for the kiddies. Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s R-rated adventure is packed with disturbing images, political subtext and gory interludes. In short, when was the last time a fantasy flick brought to mind Schindler’s List? Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is a young girl of about 11. She’s a fatherless child in 1944 Spain, and her sympathetic though weak-willed mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) has taken as her new husband an officer in Franco’s army. Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez) is a terrifying entity, a Fascist who tortures prisoners with the same attention to detail that a philatelist pores over rare stamps. Stationed at a remote farm in rural Spain, where he and his men are attempting to flush out resistance fighters, Vidal orders the pregnant Carmen and Ofelia to join him at this dreary outpost. Ofelia immediately bonds with the captain’s housekeeper (Maribel Verdu) -- who may or may not be a spy for the rebels -- but beyond that, there’s not much for a child to do at military headquarters other than to steer clear of her unfeeling stepfather and wander around. But while investigating her surroundings, Ofelia stumbles upon a hidden world -- a magical place where a faun (Doug Jones) relates a fantastic tale involving Ofelia’s lineage and then sends her off on a series of hazardous quests. The question at the heart of Pan’s Labyrinth -- and one which it steadfastly refuses to answer -- is whether the fantasy world is a physical reality (albeit one able to be seen only by a child, in the best storybook tradition) or whether it exists exclusively in Ofelia’s imagination. It’s perhaps a fair query -- and astute viewers will certainly enjoy perusing the screen for clues -- yet ultimately it doesn’t matter one way or the other. One of the best films of 2006, it’s too important to be marginalized as a genre flick.

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