Tale Of Tales
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.