The Movie Waffler First Look Review - FAIRYTALE | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - FAIRYTALE

fairytale italian movie review
A 1950s suburban American housewife, played by a gay Italian man, has an existential crisis.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Sebastiano Mauri

Starring: Filippo Timi, Sergio Albelli, Piera Degli Esposti, Lucia Mascino

fairytale italian movie poster

In her seminal essay 'Notes on Camp', Sontag (bloody Sontag) outlines the decisive element of camp, a "sensibility" distinct "from an idea," as its "love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration." Further to this, camp is adamantly "esoteric, something of a private code" and a "badge of identity" among what Sontag calls "small urban cliques" (i.e., mainly The Gays).

fairytale italian movie review

Thus, just like attending an exhibition of that modern art they have these days, going in to Fairytale, a gaudy chamber melodrama from married couple Sebastiano Mauri and Filippo Timi (Sebastiano directs his screenplay based on Filippo’s play - Filippo also takes the lead), necessitates at least a passing appreciation of the aesthetic's esoteric ‘codes’ and conventions if you are going to make head nor tail of it.

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For starters, the extremely blokey Timi plays Mrs. Fairytale, a 1950s American housewife straight out of technicolor Sirk (a major camp touchstone, natch). Each morning she bids farewell to her unseen husband, and ekes the day out with cocktails, housework and morning gossip sessions with her mate Mrs. Emerald (Lucia Mascino). Fairytale also has a dog, Lady, who is a stuffed poodle. How far we are expected to accept Lady as a taxidermised animal, and not as emblematic of an actual Klein, is an early proairetic code: along with the sumptuous artifice of the mise-en-scene and the pitch perfect hyperbolism of the performances, it is as if Fairytale is provoking our appreciation of its stylised passions, existing within that mysterious playfulness between style and content which is the vanguard of High Camp, and which its cliquey acolytes will adore.

fairytale italian movie review

The look of Fairytale is to die for. Like its theatrical forbearer, the film is located entirely within Fairytale’s mod apartment, with all the soft angles and assertive colour schemes of Mario Bava in his groovy, late to mid '60s pomp. The real stars of this show are Alessia Anfuso and Gavio Zabernardi, whose set designs and costumes (respectively) are the living end: the cocktail glasses Emerald and Fairytale hold aloft like weapons against suburban ennui had me reaching for google reverse image search to see if I could track a set down myself (it was the matching straws that did it: these are girls after my own heart!). Beneath the heady style, a farcical plot bubbles involving the fit blokes next door (played, in triplicate, by Sergio Albelli) who seem to have designs on our heroine, and attempt various darkly comic ways of getting her into bed - including drugging those aesthetic aperitifs…

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And so, within the levels of artifice; the non-American staging posing as suburban Midwest, the female lead played by a decidedly male man; and machinations; the performances delivered within ever present quotation marks; there is ultimately a seriousness at play in Fairytale. A growing love affair between Emerald and Fairytale is authentically touching (and actually quite sensual; again, with the layers). The drama narrows to a third act desperation, involving the potential murder of paramours and the promise of escape.

fairytale italian movie review

Towards the end of the film, Fairytale’s non-demonstrative mother (Piera Degli Esposti) shows up to offer this direct, epigrammatic advice: "Life is a farce. Remove the mask, all we’d hear are the screams of despair." In a weird epilogue, Fairytale does remove its mask, and, in playing its hand and asking us for full emotional commitment, the wheels come off this merry ride somewhat. As Sontag advises, "one can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious," but doing both at the same time is to break Camp’s sacred contract. However sincere Fairytale’s worthy real-life messages are, they cannot help but be rendered slightly disingenuous by what has gone before, and the powerful pantomime which makes up most of its running time overwhelms the would-be tragedy of its final sequence.

Those cocktail glasses, though.

Fairytale is on US DVD/VOD May 12th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

2020 movie reviews