Tale Of Tales


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Salma Hayek stars as a jealous queen in Tale of Tales.
"On balance, the dexterity of Garrone’s vision papers over the cracks and finds the poetic dimensions of the magical material."

Based on a 17th century fairy tale collection by Giambattista Basile, Italian director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Reality) evokes the golden age of il cinema italiano in this romanesque fresco full of kings, queens, orgres, derring-do and fantastical effects.

It is the kind of feast for the eyes and senses that Federico Fellini concocted in his heyday (think his Satyricon, or Pasolini’s Decameron or Jean Cocteau’s Beauty And The Beast) and about as far from the naturalistic style of Gomorrah you could hope to get.

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Shot in English with a reasonably stellar cast, thereby hoping secure international exposure, this is a fairy tale with distinctly adult overtones. These are bawdy and irreverent evocations of the rituals of life in 17th century Naples. Garrone satiates the senses with stunning visuals and rich costumes (there has to be an award or two somewhere for these departments).

Initially the patchwork formula grates but for the last hour or so the narrative pace picks up with some jaw-dropping set-pieces that will have audiences on the edge of their seats or cringing in horror.

This is storytelling on the grand scale and it does have some resonances with the social themes of Garrone’s previous work, particularly in the story of a prince and his pauper-twin or the two sisters who are cast asunder by the king’s lust (Vincent Cassel in fine lecherous form). The king does not realise that the female he is wooing is, in fact, an old woman Dora (Hayley Carmichael) worn down mentally and physically by the trials and tribulations of the world. Shirley Henderson appears as her frail sibling Imma. Salma Hayek also acquits herself well as the queen with an obsessive maternal instinct.

In another section, a monarch played by Toby Jones, in a bizarre contest of suitors, finally gives away his daughter (Bebe Cave) to a grotesque ogre (Guillaume Delaunay) who whisks her away to his cavernous lair, leading to a an exciting rescue mission involving a rope walk across a ravine.

Some of the tales are intercut with others which requires a deft sleight of hand in the editing - and not always successfully.

On balance, the dexterity of Garrone’s vision papers over the cracks and finds the poetic dimensions of the magical material, which like all good tales weaves its own unique spell.

Reviewed on: 14 May 2015
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Tale Of Tales packshot
Collection of fairy tales. In one, Salma Hayek is a jealous queen and in another Vincent Cassel plays a king who encounters two mysterious sisters. In a third a king raises a gigantic flea.
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Director: Matteo Garrone

Writer: Matteo Garrone, based on the book by Giambattista Basile

Starring: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C Reilly, Shirley Henderson

Year: 2015

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy, France, UK

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