Tale of Tales
Classical fairy tales are among the oldest sources of inspiration to storytellers of all kinds, yet it seems that more big-budget interpretations have found their way to our cinema screens in recent years than in any time before. Following on the heels of the likes of Maleficent, Into the Woods and The Huntsman comes Tale of Tales, an Anglo-Italian-French collaboration drawing directly from the work of 17th century writer Giambattista Basile, starring Salma Hayek (Frida), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) and Toby Young (Infamous) as the royal heads of the neighbouring kingdoms in which their three largely separate fantastical stories unfold.
The film is a first foray into the English language by Italian director Matteo Garrone, though it is not through language that he stamps his artistic authority in this three-course, Michelin-starred gourmet feast for the eyes. The masterfully evocative visual style is conjured with the help of an obvious respect for the darkness of the genre, CGI applied with a refreshingly delicate touch, and some breathtaking Italian scenery (the three majestic castles at the centre of each of the kingdoms depicted exist, no less majestically, in the real world).
The same keen eye for a stunning image that’s liable to send you reaching for the holiday brochures is also likely to leave many of the key scenes seared into your mind, like memorised illustrations from a favourite childhood storybook. To speak too much of their macabre majesty is to ruin the joy of discovery, but the stark poster image of Hayek, regally clad in black against an ornate white background and greedily munching upon a basketball-sized scarlet heart is an especially vivid example.
Although occasional scenes of violence and sex mark this reimagining as one for adults only, the original stories appeared in a collection that bore the subtitle “Entertainment for Little Ones”. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that neither the plot nor its characters are drawn with quite the same complexity as the world that they inhabit. For all the colour and magic it carries with it, the film palpably stutters and runs out of steam before an ending, which, owing to an uneven distribution of dramatic focus between its three strands, manages the difficult task of feeling both bloated and hurried. Though its narrative failings keep this particular fairy story from achieving the status of a genuine classic, its unbridled atmospheric beauty make it a tale worth telling, and seeing, nonetheless.
Tale of Tales is released nationwide on 17th June 2016.
Watch the trailer for Tale of Tales here: