TALE OF TALES
(Il Racconto dei Racconti)
Tale of Tales is the eighth feature film for director Matteo Garrone. Garrone gained a good deal of attention with his crime film Gomorrah (2008), which won the Palme dOr at the Cannes Festival and enjoyed a great deal of acclaim in arthouse release. Aside from that, he has made other works that have enjoyed some success such as The Embalmer (2002), which is not a horror film despite a title that sounds like it should be, First Love (2004) and Reality (2012).
Garrone creates a beautifully lush film. He has chosen some superbly spacious and wide-open locations in various real castles and historic places this looks nothing like the castle and courts that we get in modern studio backlot fairytale films. Garrone has also made the film for English-language audiences, shooting in English and importing a number of international name stars, including Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Toby Jones and Vincent Cassel. And the film comes with some gorgeous visuals Hayley Carmichael lying in the forest adorned in a red bedspread, the young Stacy Martin found nude covered in a gorgeous matt of red hair, the ogre climbing the mountainside with Bebe Cave on his back.
Matteo Garrone creates a film that is very different to what you expect of traditional fairytale adaptations. Certainly, we have magic kingdoms, princes and princesses, witches, ogres, transformations and so forth. But the tales are anything but the traditional ones of love wins out, or even the modern dark romances for adults that we have had in recent years. At most what we have are more along the lines of Middle Eastern morality tales where characters receive cruel twists of fate. The film tells three different stories. In most films of this type, they would take place sequentially but for some reason the telling of each here is interspersed with the other. There is no particular order to the tales the order I have given them here merely follows the way they are listed on the end credits.
The Queen works well. The scenes with the necromancer and John C. Reilly heading off to slay a sea monster are perfect pieces of heroic questing, before the story abruptly kills Reilly and doglegs off in a different direction. This is probably the weaker of the stories by a fraction. Salma Hayek doesnt quite get enough screen time and the show fails to make the best use of her great screen presence. The two boys are fascinating together and their separation comes tragically but the climactic fight with the bat creature feels like a payoff that fails to fully satisfy, least of all in that it leaves Salma Hayeks fate unspecified.
The Two Old Women is a fascinating piece that would normally play out as a childrens tale but is relayed in adult terms. What strikes about the piece is the contrast and cruelties the doddery Shirley Henderson wandering about the palace trying to find her sister and not understanding as Stacy Martin tries to shoo her away as an embarrassment; the pure nastiness of the ending where Henderson takes her sisters claims about the rejuvenation process seriously and wanders through the town offering to pay people to flay her and we then see her staggering back skinned.
The episode I felt worked the best was The Flea. Like The Queen this is a story that heads in a particular direction then veers off to tell a different story. The first part involves the peculiar relationship between king Toby Jones and his pet flea, which starts as a normal flea and we then rather alarmingly see grown to the size of a large dog. This thread of story is then abandoned and we jump into another in which Jones holds a competition for his daughters hand for whomever can guess what type of skin the fleas hide is, which is won by an ogre. The best scenes are the ones with the princess attempting to escape the ogres mountainside cave, her salvation from a travelling band of circus gypsies, being carried away by the tightrope walker, and pursued by the ogre, reaching a very satisfying end with her finally escaping the ogres control and returning bloodied to her fathers court.
Cannes release trailer here:-
US release trailer here:-