Tale Of Tales

Roy­alty three

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased 17 June 15 | 134 min­utes Di­rec­tor Mat­teo Gar­rone Cast salma Hayek, Vin­cent Cas­sel, Toby Jones, John C reilly

The last thing any­one ex­pected from Mat­teo Gar­rone, di­rec­tor of gritty drama Go­mor­rah, was a twisted fairy­tale fea­tur­ing sea mon­sters, gi­ant fleas and a hula-hoop­ing bear.

Loosely based on the works of 17th cen­tury poet Gi­ambat­tista Basile, this port­man­teau film in­ter­weaves the fan­tas­ti­cal sto­ries of three kings and their re­spec­tive king­doms. In Sel­vas­cura, Salma Hayek’s bar­ren queen sends her hus­band on a mis­sion to mag­i­cally grant her a child; in Roc­caforte, Vin­cent Cas­sel’s Casanova king un­wit­tingly courts a crone; and in Al­tomonte, Toby Jones’s monarch raises a strange pet flea, while daugh­ter Vi­ola (Bebe Cave) de­mands to be mar­ried off to a coura­geous suitor.

Basile was hugely in­flu­en­tial in shap­ing fairy­tale sto­ry­telling, in­spir­ing ev­ery­one from the Brothers Grimm to Walt Dis­ney, but his sto­ries still feel fresh. To say the darkly comic, of­ten hor­rific twists and turns are un­ex­pected would be a gross un­der­state­ment.

It’s a film that trusts its au­di­ence to go along with its loosely de­fined but en­tirely be­liev­able world. There are no ti­tle cards telling you where you are, and the rules of magic are left for you to work out. Gar­rone grounds the film with a dead­pan tone and, with cin­e­matog­ra­pher Peter Sus­chitzky, cap­tures some en­chant­ing and sump­tu­ous vi­su­als.

The cast im­presses. Vin­cent Cas­sel is per­fect as the king who puts his crotch first, while Toby Jones proves adept at phys­i­cal com­edy in a role that’s half king, half clown. Cave’s Vi­ola has the most in­ter­est­ing jour­ney – imag­ine if Cin­derella found her­self in a slasher movie.

If there’s a prob­lem it’s that the com­plex, in­ter­weav­ing struc­ture of­ten in­ter­rupts the flow of a tale at just the wrong junc­ture, lin­ger­ing on one seg­ment for too long or depart­ing from an­other far too soon. And we have no idea who Tale Of Tales is for, be­cause with gory vi­o­lence, a Python-es­que sense of the hor­rific and oc­ca­sional nu­dity it’s cer­tainly not child-friendly… Jor­dan Far­ley

Fancy read­ing the orig­i­nal sto­ries? You’re in luck: they were re­cently reprinted in a new Penguin Clas­sics edi­tion (RRP £12.99).

Vera’s veg­e­tar­ian cafe did have one meat op­tion.

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