Find­ing won­der in the macabre

Tim Bur­ton’s new film re­flects his en­thu­si­asm for mon­sters and fan­tasy, Xu Fan re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | FILM - Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Mon­sters feed­ing on hu­man eye­balls? If a child has a fa­ther like Tim Bur­ton, that may be the bed­time story.

Scary but in­ter­est­ing — that’s how Hol­ly­wood’s “King of Quirk” de­fines the scene that the di­rec­tor fea­tures in his lat­est film, Miss Pere­grine’s Home for Pe­cu­liar Chil­dren.

“I al­ways find po­etic and emo­tional mo­ments in hor­ror films,” Bur­ton says on the Bei­jing stop of the film’s pro­mo­tional tour. The film will open on the Chi­nese main­land on Dec 2— about six weeks later than the US re­lease.

From Ed­ward Scis­sorhands and Planet of the Apes to Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­tory, the pres­ti­gious au­teur is known in Hol­ly­wood as a mas­ter of dark, gothic and ec­cen­tric hits, and the new film con­tin­ues his trade­mark style.

For fan­tasy-film fans, the vis­ual feast has al­ready won ac­claim from over­seas view­ers. The movie site IMDb.com gives the film 7 points out of 10.

The movie is adapted from US au­thor Ran­som Riggs’ de­but novel of the same name, which ruled The New York Times’ chil­dren’s chap­ter list in 2012.

Some­thing of a young-adult ver­sion of X-Men, the 127-minute film cen­ters on a teenager who stum­bles upon a group of chil­dren pos­sess­ing para­nor­mal abil­i­ties on a Welsh is­land in 1943. The boy helps his newfriends to fight against eye­ball eat­ing demons.

Again re­ly­ing on his ex­tra­or­di­nary imag­i­na­tion, Bur­ton vi­su­al­izes the fan­tas­tic set­tings in the novel on the big screen.

In a trailer tai­lored for the Chi­nese mar­ket, view­ers can watch Miss Pere­grine, the ti­tle role who pro­tects the chil­dren from mon­ster-demons, trans­form into a bird; a teenager lighter than air float on top of a tree; and a young girl eat chicken us­ing teeth in the back of her head.

Miss Pere­grine has dark mo­ments. Jake, the teenage pro­tag­o­nist, sees his grand­fa­ther mur­dered with his eye sock­ets emp­tied. Mon­sters hunt down “ex­tra­or­di­nary” peo­ple for their eye­balls.

But Bur­ton be­lieves such mo­ments, with a blend of hu­mor and emo­tion, still ap­peal to kids.

He says dark sides have long driven fairy tales and folk leg­ends in many coun­tries’ lit­er­ary his­to­ries.

Many of the world’s fa­vorite fairy tales, such as Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Snow White and Sleep­ing Beauty, were not writ­ten as the happy-end­ing sto­ries fa­vored by Dis­ney, but with touches of hor­ror in the orig­i­nal texts by the Broth­ers Grimm, Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen and oth­ers.

“I never con­sider my­self as a dark per­son. De­spite the fact that some ofmy movies may have dark things, I al­ways want to mix hu­mor and emo­tion, sad­ness and hap­pi­ness, magic and science … that’s how I feel about life,” he says.

In an era when most Hol­ly­wood big-bud­get pro­duc­tions rely heav­ily on dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate spec­tac­u­lar sets, Bur­ton does not seem so fas­ci­nated by com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery.

Bur­ton wanted a set­ting that felt real in the cin­e­matic world, and the pro­duc­tion team scouted many lo­ca­tions for Miss Pere­grine’s home un­til a cas­tle in Bel­gium got the green light from the di­rec­tor.

“The first time I saw that empty house, it looked like a real home for pe­cu­liar chil­dren,” re­calls Bur­ton.

“I also want the chil­dren to be as sim­ple and real as pos­si­ble. They have pe­cu­liar pow­ers, but they’re just chil­dren at heart.”

The mav­er­ick di­rec­tor re­veals that most of his in­spi­ra­tion came from day­dreams.

Tim Bur­ton,

“I’m very lucky, as I can dream when I am awake. I can see in­ter­est­ing things in a strange way,” he says.

The whim­si­cal side of the books he read in his child­hood, such as those star­ring such ghouls Franken­stein and the Were­wolf, has been an­other source for in­spi­ra­tion.

“When I was a child, I found mon­ster films to be beau­ti­ful, emo­tional and po­etic, although some peo­ple think they are hor­rific,” he says

Be­gin­ning his ca­reer as an an­i­ma­tor for Dis­ney, Bur­ton es­tab­lished his own style with the 1984 live-ac­tion short Franken­wee­nie.

In­ter­est­ingly, he was fired by Dis­ney as the an­i­ma­tion gi­ant re­garded the tale as too dark and hor­rific for chil­dren.

But Bur­ton has never stopped ex­plor­ing.

Nowhe is seen as an iconic fig­ure who has rein­vented genre films in Hol­ly­wood over the past 30 years.

“Whether film­ing or do­ing some­thing else, the most im­por­tant thing for me is to cre­ate things,” he says.

The 58-year-old di­rec­tor jokes that his se­cret has been to re­main 13 years old men­tally.

“Chil­dren al­ways see things as new, as most things are new to them. It’s im­por­tant for us to look at things through a child’s eyes,” he ex­plains.

Asked how he bal­ances the stu­dios’ com­mer­cial de­mands and his pur­suits, Bur­ton says he’s lucky that he can be him­self.

Bur­ton says he vis­ited China once be­fore, many years ago, and met some artists.

“I’m happy to be here again to ex­pe­ri­ence the cul­ture,” he says.

“I’ve been very in­spired.”

Whether film­ing or do­ing some­thing else, the most im­por­tant thing for me is to cre­ate things.” film­maker

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Tim Bur­ton’s lat­est film, Mis­sPere­grine’sHome­forPe­cu­liarChil­dren, con­tin­ues his trade­mark dark, gothic and ec­cen­tric style.

The vis­ual feast of the film has won ac­claim from over­seas view­ers.

Eva Green is a mas­ter of mis­fits in Miss P ere grin e’ s Home for Pe­cu­liar Chil­dren.

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