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Tale of Tales

July 31, 2016

Tale of Tales (2016)
Director: Matteo Garrone
Actors: Salma Hayek, Toby Jones, Bebe Cave

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Synopsis: A tale of three kingdoms: in the first, a childless queen (Salma Hayek) takes on a Faustian pact to become pregnant; in another, a king (Toby Jones) more interested in fleas unwittingly palms his daughter (Bebe Cave) off on an ogre; and in the third, a randy king (Vincent Cassel) gets more than he bargained for when he courts what he assumes to be a gorgeous young woman….

Review: Matteo Garrone’s engagingly idiosyncratic, fantastical adult fairytale, Tale of Tales, is an absolute gem. It would initially seem a remove from his most famous work – the Neapolitan crime saga, Gomorrah – but on reflection, both works are uncannily similar in effect: Garrone revelling in outing the rhetoric and ironies of his stories through a maverick approach to cinematography and the overall geography of his worlds (he loves tracking shots which are almost literalisations of the interlinking architecture of his narratives.)

Befitting the fairytale feel, Garrone has created a work that is visually ravishing and extremely sensual. The music score is like a proto-80s horror synth affair, and there are scenes of marvellous wit and irony: my stand-out two being the simply surreal underwater section where John C. Reilly’s king goes to slay a monster with bizarre results, and the brilliantly-revealed entrance of Vincent Cassel’s lascivious king (he lifts his head dramatically into view after two ladies have seemingly been copping off on their own!)

Perhaps my only marginal contention is that the conceits don’t always justify their long dramatisation – they’re more like vignettes or sketches than scenarios that need two hours of running time; but even then, the film’s continual sense of invention, gallows humour and aesthetic beauty keeps you engrossed. (July 2016)

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