Four years after directing ‘The Shape of Water’, the feature film that ended up consecrating Guillermo del Toro as one of the great filmmakers of the Hollywood industry and took him to the same podium as his compatriots Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón, the Mexican filmmaker returns with a darker proposal’, ‘El alley of lost souls’, film adaptation of the homonymous novel by William Lindsay Gresham, which already had a version for the big screen in 1947 by Edmund Goulding.

Although ‘The Shape of Water’ still belonged to the fantasy genre, it could be seen that Del Toro embraced more of a style that evoked not only classic horror films, but also noir, with very characteristic elements of this type of production such as the improvised heroine or the unscrupulous villain. With ‘The alley of lost souls’; the director, who signs the script together with Kim Morgan -his current wife-, he abandons any fantastic element, turning his proposal into the rise and fall of one man’s ambition as a metaphor for the decline of the great American dream.

It is true that the film has, especially in its first part, several elements of a gothic tale where Del Toro’s stamp can be seen. However, these end up in a discreet second place when the circus stage gives way to that of the great elites of the metropolis. On the other hand, It can be said that this is one of the most elegant and distinguished productions from the director of ‘Hellboy’ and ‘Pacific Rim’. His photography, the work of Dan Laustsen (who was behind the photography of ‘Crimson Peak’ and ‘The Shape of Water’), offers a spectacular 40s, twilight as well as full of life, evoking that excessive ambition for money that evokes the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

the alley of lost souls

Mention also for its careful production design that Del Toro once again shows off and for which he has had regular collaborators, with Tamara Deverell in production design; Brandt Gordon as art director and Shane Vieau as set man. Applause for her costume design, the work of Luis Sequeira, who opted for the Oscar for the much talked about ‘The Shape of Water’. It’s also time to applaud its correct soundtrack, the work of Nathan Johnson, which premieres in period productions.

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Exquisite technical section and a magnificent cast for a historical drama that has a hard time starting

Another aspect that manages to elevate ‘The Alley of Lost Souls’ is its careful cast, especially Bradley Cooper. The actor of ‘The bright side of things’ and ‘A star is born’ gives himself body and soul to the role of the swindler who manipulated beyond his means. Although the interpreter has experience in extreme roles, in the case of this proposal, he seems to want to emulate the acting style of Leonardo DiCaprio, who was originally going to star in the film.

Next to Cooper, a luxury cast, with three actresses offering a complex portrait of the female archetypes typical of film noir. First up is Toni Collette, in the role of that old glory that survives as best it can and has lived through better years; then there’s rooney mara like the naïve lover who ends up learning the lessons life gives the hard way; finally there is Cate Blanchett, who seeks to update the figure of the femme fatale, being the only one who overshadows Cooper. However, all three reflect very well the different emotional states of the leading actor, serving as great counterpoints. Applause also for Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins and David Strathairn.

the alley of lost souls

With special care for its technical aspect and also for the interpretive side, Del Toro is missing an essential element that would have made the film a bigger proposition than it is and that causes it to be a step backwards from ‘The Shape of Water’: its script. Proposal without artifice or games that could have been offered by the fantasy or horror genre, Del Toro offers a period drama with a rather leaden start, which fails to create interest due to the excessive ambition of its protagonist and when it finally gains momentum, the viewer has already disconnected from the plot. It also doesn’t help that it takes so long to reach the climax of the story, getting lost in an overly long introduction.

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Del Toro has already shown that he is capable of creating period productions with a masterful technical aspect, having already done so with ‘The Shape of Water’, as well as ‘Crimson Peak’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. But nevertheless, shows that it lacks the delicacy typical of historical dramas, as well as a greater rhythm in its plot, too solemn, as if he took himself too seriously. A step back in a winding filmography.

Note: 6

The best: Its technical section is fascinating, its actors are splendid.

Worst: It fails in the main thing, its story, which has a hard time starting and has a tedious rhythm at the beginning and does not finish finding momentum when it reaches its climax.

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