Sponsor

New Release Review - TALE OF TALES

Screen adaptation of three tales from Italian fableist Giambattista Basile.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Matteo Garrone

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



There's no doubt Garrone could do some interesting work with the larger canvas provided by English language cinema, but Tale of Tales is a waste of resources for all involved, and there's no fairy tale ending for the viewer.



Following his breakout 2008 hit Gomorrah, it's likely Italian director Matteo Garrone would have received offers from Hollywood, but he remained in his home country for 2012's Reality and only now makes his English language debut with Tale of Tales, a misfiring adaptation of three tales from the quill of sixteenth century fableist Giambattista Basile, the author responsible for the earliest instances of classic fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Cinderella.


Understandably, Garrone has opted to bring three of Basile's lesser known fables to the screen. In The Queen, Salma Hayek plays the titular monarch, blessed with all the riches of the land but denied the ability to bear a child, until an encounter with a necromancer clues her into the one method of rendering her fertile. Her husband, the King (John C Reilly), ventures into the depths of the ocean and cuts the heart from a sea monster; the organ is then boiled by a virgin and, voila, the Queen finds herself carrying a child. However, the virgin also becomes pregnant, both women giving birth to albino sons. When the boys have become teenagers, they are intent on spending time with each other, much to the Queen's chagrin.

The second story, The Flea, stars the great Toby Jones as a King who becomes obsessed with one such insect, nurturing it until it grows into a Cronenbergian monstrosity, a scenario that leads to his daughter marrying an ogre.

The final story, The Two Old Women, casts Vincent Cassell as yet another smitten monarch, this time with a peasant girl whose face he has never laid eyes on. Enchanted by her voice, this king is unaware that she is really one of a pair of grotesque hag sisters.


Rather than following the standard anthology format of presenting each story in full, one after the other, Garrone has his play out in parallel. As none of the stories are remotely engrossing, the result is a film that tests the patience of the viewer, as we're forced to endure over two hours before getting to the unsatisfying conclusion of three stories that undoubtedly would have had more impact as standalone 30 minute shorts.

It's odd that Garrone has chosen an Italian setting for his first venture into English language filmmaking, and I can't help think the movie would have been far more effective if made with an Italian cast. There's a palpable sense of Garrone's intent having become lost in translation throughout, and the members of the international cast seem directionless. Usually reliable performers like Jones, Reilly and Cassell appear visibly befuddled, while Hayek's New World inflection jars with the decidedly Old World setting.


Visually, Garrone's film is arresting - the medieval setting lacks grime, but of course this is a fairy tale world after all - but it can't settle on a tone, falling somewhere between Pasolini and a historical installment of the Carry On series, unlikely to satisfy fans of either. There's no doubt Garrone could do some interesting work with the larger canvas provided by English language cinema, but Tale of Tales is a waste of resources for all involved, and there's no fairy tale ending for the viewer.

Don't Be Greedy, Share This Post



discussion by