Il Racconto dei Racconti (Tale of Tales)
Seeing Matteo Garrone’s fantastic Il Racconto dei Racconti (Tale of Tales) is how listening to fairytales must have felt for their first-time audience: pure, unheard-of and incredibly entertaining. The episodic and intertwining fables from the courts of three different magic kingdoms are illuminating both in their everyday moralities and in their otherworldly extravagance. Providing his allegories with the endless possibilities of an alternate universe, Garrone has too much pleasure delving deep into the pre-Hobbit rawness of his main source of inspiration, Giambattista Basile’s 17th century collection of fantastic stories Pentamerone, to give one thought to genre convention.
He shows us deeply human notions and then sees them through with all the imaginative consequence that only fantasy can offer. There is Salma Hayek’s queen who is so desperate to overcome her infertility that she does as is foretold to her, feasting on the heart of a sea monster that killed her husband in its death-struggle. Finally, she goes through a one-day concentrate of a pregnancy, but gets more than she bargained for when the preparation of the unorthodox dish does not fail to leave its mark on her virgin cook as well. In another segment, a sex and booze-crazy Dionysian king (Vincent Cassel) thinks he’s falling in love with a woman behind a shut door, where in fact there are only two old ladies. The struggle these aged sisters go through in order to be or at least appear young again turns out to be a more powerful parable on vanity and our worship of beauty and youth than realistic cinema can dream of conveying.
The last part introduces us to the alienated relationship of a widow king (the great Toby Jones) with his teenage princess daughter. Their tour de force is about finding a proper husband for her, but, above all else, it brings the two of them closer together again. Not to spill the beans, but ogre rape and a giant flea pet make their respective appearances.
In his most enjoyable first English-language movie, Gomorrah director Garrone challenges today’s viewer to digest the original fairytale combination of enchanting entertainment mixed with many very real moments of sex, blood and dirt. Terry Gilliam will sit somewhere smiling at this, wondering how the funding came through.
Il Racconto dei Racconti (Tale of Tales) does not yet have a UK release date.
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Watch the trailer for Il Racconto dei Racconti here: