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LSJ Media and Transmission Films have 10 double tickets to give away for the new Michael Winterbottom comedy The Last King.

Starring Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan, The Last King is the life-affirming true story of a woman who refused to be ignored and who took on the country’s most eminent historians, forcing them to think again about one of the most controversial kings in England’s history: Richard III. Watch the trailer here.

The Last King is in cinemas this Boxing Day. To enter, please email your name and address to [email protected], with the subject line “The Lost King” by Monday 12 December at 5pm

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
4 out 5 


There is no doubt that Guillermo del Toro is one of the most accomplished filmmakers currently working. Every new project of his is a unique piece of art, extensively researched and built off the back of the director’s unique and intricate imagination. Everything he creates appears to come from an almost obsessive pursuit of perfection. Famously, he keeps a notebook where he sketches designs and objects for characters, details backstories, and makes annotations about the worlds he is building. I would offer the down payment of a house in Sydneys Inner West for the privilege of reading his notebooks forPan’s Labyrinth or The Devils Backbone. At some point, he was working to adapt H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Can you imagine what his notebooks about this work would contain? 

Del Toro has nothing more to prove, but being able to come out of nowhere with a stop-animation adaption of Carlo Collodis fairytale, and succeed where everyone else has failed, is a new kind of achievement. 

When a story is so recognisable, its notoriously difficult to do justice to an adaptation. Walt Disney nailed it by stripping most of the anti-authoritarian metaphor and passing it through the whitewashed lens of the factory of dreams. The animatedPinocchiowas a work of colourful wonder, carrying a simplistic message about conformity that contradicted Collodis, and complementing it with style so pure its main song introduces the Disney Corporation.  

Everything after that, though? A total disaster. I understand that Pinocchio is a complicated story that is too ingrained in its moralistic core. The tone is inherently dark, as per Catholic tradition. The joyfulness of life was introduced as a theme in all Hollywood movies only once Hollywood realised sugarcoating tales was a recipe for success.   

To all intents and purposes, Pinocchio is a child whose existence feeds off Geppettos grief. At some point, hes kidnapped by an adult man who exploits him for profit in blatant slavery. Their descent hits rock bottom in the literal belly of the beast, and the only resolution is to return to their simple and happy life. Any filmmaker who tries to do justice to the original work struggles with the fact that this dark tale has to ultimately be a childrens story. 

And thats where del Toro makes a difference: his version is not for children but for misfits bearing immense religious guilt. Nothing is wished upon a star here. Happy endings are not supposed to come naturally. 

The film starts with a scene featuring Geppetto (here voiced by David Bradley) and his son Carlo (Gregory Mann, who also voices Pinocchio). In a montage worthy of something like Pixar’s Up, we follow father and son on the day the master carpenter unveils his giant wooden crucifix for the local church. When the village is hit by an air raid, Carlo is tragically caught in an explosion.  

Several years later, in a drunken rage, Geppetto builds a little puppet that comes to life with the help of a benevolent wood sprite (Tilda Swinton). She assigns Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor) to help guide the new child. The following morning Geppetto isnt happy to see his creation come to life. In fact, the shock of seeing his son” again is almost unbearable for the old man, especially when Pinocchio is led to act impulsively by his innocent unruliness. No one understands authority until they are presented with its consequences. Pinocchios curiosity about the marvellous world in front of him is more compelling than listening to his father. 

The big twist in Del Toro’s version is that Pinocchio doesnt want to be a real child. He already is one. He wants to be good, which is a whole different level of expectation. Most children want to be good, but dont understand the ramifications of what this entails. Del Toro explores this thoroughly, making us wonder whether we want to be good because its the right thing to do. Or are we motivated by selfishness: will being good win us more love? And can a child, in its innocence, understand this philosophical conundrum? 

The pressure of Catholic guilt, inherent in the setting of the film, is a spectre at the centre of the films message. Pinocchio first reveals himself to a packed church, where Carlo died, where a giant wooden Jesus Christ oversees its people. Why do they all love him but not me?” questions Pinocchio. It’s not because of a question of goodness. 

The other element that drives the film is the spectre of fascism, similarly to del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. This time, the story is set in Mussolinis Italy, highlighting an extreme level of authority that controls the population. When Pinocchio joins the carnival, he becomes the property of Count Volpe (Christophe Waltz), a sadistic Mussolini fanboy who distracts an unsuspecting audience with the antics of his puppet show. Puppets to create puppets. 

Del Toro’s Mexican upbringing fits perfectly with the Italian sensibility. Its hard not to find the correlation between the footprint of the Catholic church and that of fascism in society. And del Toro also understands how religion is a cultural foundation many rely on. As he shows in his film, its authority, perpetuated by those who are not good and dont have a moral compass or a gentle cricket to help them, that corrupts it.