Sunday, September 16, 2018

Tale of Tales

Movie Name: Tale of Tales
Year of Release: 2015
Director: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Salma Hayek, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly, Vincent Cassel, Shirley Henderson, Hayley Carmichael, Bebe Cave, Stacy Martin, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees, Jessie Cave
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Italian director Matteo Garrone made a splash with his film "Gomorrah", an unflinching look at crime in Italy, which gave him the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival of 2008. He followed that with the film "Reality" and then this unexpected and sumptuous, "Tale of Tales", which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. The film is a loose adaptation of the novel by Giambattista Basile, and is comprised of three different storylines that eventually converge into one. All of these stories are populated by fantastical creatures (very much like Terry Gilliam's "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen). In one of the stories, a Queen sacrifices the life of her husband, all in the effort to be pregnant and have a child. Her husband vanquishes this mythical under the sea creature, whose heart makes the queen instantly pregnant (alongside with the virgin who also touched the heart of that creature). In another story, a libertine King, gets enraptured by the singing voice of a woman, who he is unable to see since she flees and hides. He doesn't realize that the woman, Dora, and her sister, are both elderly and live in almost seclusion. He insists in wanting to be with her, and Dora agrees to do so, but only during the still of the night, with no lights on. The King however, manages to capture a glimpse of her, and has her thrown out. Dora manages to survive, and is nursed by a witch. When she wakes up, she looks young and stunning. The third story focuses on a king, who lives with his daughter Violet. They have a loving relationship, but the king starts focusing on a flea, that he starts feeding until the creature gains immense proportions. When the flea dies, the King is heartbroken and decides to skin the creature. He also offers to give his daughter as a bride to whoever is able to guess the source of the tanned skin.
"Tale of Tales" is an interesting film, one that feels like an exercise in style and art direction, more so than the analogies that it tries to capture. The film also utilizes a well recognized international cast to craft this storytelling, though each one of the stories, comes with a sting and an underlying darkness that is alluded to in fairytales, but never quite as well captured/staged. This type of chapter driven storytelling always produces uneven cinematic experiences, since the characters are never quite given the dimension they should - these archetypes always feel like rough sketches. In this case, Garrone seems to have focused heavily in the production design by Dimitri Capuani and exquisite costumes from Massimo Parrini, and while the stories are sufficiently engaging, they are never more than superficial. This film is a testament that at times, it's preferable to focus on one chapter and make it work and give it enough depth, than to paint a beautiful, yet hollow canvas with good actors and generous production values.