Guillermo del Toro Names Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can the Most Underrated Great Movie of All Time

Direc­tor Guiller­mo del Toro, as one Twit­ter wag put it recent­ly, is the kind of film friend we’d all love to have–a great con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist, a good lis­ten­er, a fan at heart, and an ency­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge of the form. And while it’s not rare to hear him praise Steven Spiel­berg, this recent Twit­ter post most peo­ple by sur­prise:

Catch Me If You Can is hon­est­ly a film I haven’t thought about since I watched it in the the­aters. That’s not to say it was bad–it was an enjoy­able romp with Leonar­do DiCaprio and Tom Han­ks play­ing cat and mouse with each side appre­ci­at­ing the oth­er side’s wiles, but appar­ent­ly de Toro has watched it and thought about it often.

Ben­David Gra­bin­s­ki, the man who made the first vol­ley in pro­claim­ing Spielberg’s film under­rat­ed, is known for writ­ing the Jack­ie Chan-John­ny Knoxville vehi­cle Skip­trace and work­ing on the more recent Blindspot­ting.

“Prob­a­bly Walken’s best per­for­mance after DEER HUNTER,” he adds, along with “Leonar­do DiCaprio is so good you don’t judge Tom Han­ks for falling for his shit.” and “There is noth­ing more enter­tain­ing than hear­ing Tom Han­ks angri­ly yell. Bet­ter than the most expen­sive FX mon­ey can buy.”
(One of Grabinski’s fol­low­ers men­tions Amy Adams’ role, long before she hit it big. There’s also a nod to the John Williams’ score, which is light and jazzy unlike his block­buster work.)

It’s more inter­est­ing who del Toro read­i­ly calls to mind as influ­ences: Stan­ley Donen (Cha­rade), William Well­man (The Pub­lic Ene­my), Vin­cent Min­nel­li, Michael Cur­tiz (Casablan­ca), and William Wyler (Roman Hol­i­day). These men were all worka­day direc­tors with­in the stu­dio sys­tem, all skilled crafts­man, but not so idio­syn­crat­ic as to stand out.

Spiel­berg told the Amer­i­can Film Insti­tute once:

“Peo­ple like Vic­tor Flem­ing and Michael Cur­tiz I iden­ti­fy with more [than the likes of Mar­tin Scors­ese and Orson Welles] because they didn’t have styles…They were chameleons and they could quick­ly adapt; they could go from a sto­ry about heav­en and the after­life to the Civ­il War. They could do a lot of dif­fer­ent sub­jects and they could do them well because they were good crafts­men… but they didn’t impose who they were on what that was. And I always felt I was more in their game.”

Some may dis­agree, as Spiel­berg, espe­cial­ly in his block­busters, has a style that oth­ers have eas­i­ly copied (J.J. Abrams, I’m look­ing at you.) But right from the get-go, Spiel­berg has always made room for oth­er gen­res, from romance to his­tor­i­cal epics to hor­ror and sci-fi.

del Toro is not that kind of film­mak­er, though his best films are when he gets per­son­al and nos­tal­gic, like The Devil’s Back­bone. The Shape of Water cer­tain­ly had its Spiel­ber­gian moments, espe­cial­ly in its E.T.-style res­cu­ing of the cen­tral crea­ture.

Now that del Toro has weighed in, hope­ful­ly he might write a lit­tle bit more on the movie in the future. For us, we might need to watch the film again.

via Indiewire

Relat­ed con­tent:

Steven Spiel­berg on the Genius of Stan­ley Kubrick

Ter­ry Gilliam on the Dif­fer­ence Between Kubrick & Spiel­berg: Kubrick Makes You Think, Spiel­berg Wraps Every­thing Up with Neat Lit­tle Bows

Watch Steven Spielberg’s Debut: Two Films He Direct­ed as a Teenag­er

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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