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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Grim Trilogy

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday May 12, 06:13 pm
These fairy tales are for adults, not children

Tale of Tales
Broadway
Opens May 13
3.5 ou t of 5

At first sight, it’s hard to believe the fantasy drama Tale of Tales could come from the same mind as the gritty, unflinching Gomorrah. Fortunately, as soon becomes clear, director Matteo Garrone has a way with sprawling narratives, no matter the circumstances.

Tale of Talesis Garrone’s first film in English, and is loosely based on a 17th century collection of fairy tales by Neapolitan poet/courtier Giambattista Basile. In the first one, a queen (Salma Hayek) desperate for a son basically trades her husband’s life for a kid. Her love for the boy is suffocating, and her jealousy, when the prince finds a friend who looks just like him, is ferocious.

The second of the intertwining stories zeroes in on a distracted king (Toby Jones) and his daughter. The former pays more attention to his pet flea (you read that right) than to his offspring, who yearns for a brave, strong prince. Their obsessions intersect in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

In the third macabre tale a lecherous monarch (Vincent Cassel, rather typecast) falls for the voice of a villager. Far from the bodacious beauties he is used to, the singer is actually an old, disease-ridden woman. Her reluctance to accept the king’s amorous advances only entices him to pursue her more forcefully.

There are no clear lessons to emerge from Tale of Tales. Numerous dark turns seem to indicate purity of heart and the best intentions mean next to nothing. Very few of the characters achieve redemption, but punishment is abundant. Garrone mixes old-fashioned fantasy film aesthetics with modern storytelling to striking effect. He even manages to get a performance out of Hayek, who is definitely capable but is too often stuck in terrible star vehicles as the love interest of aging actors.

The movie’s entertainment value is considerable. But don’t be fooled by the fairytale moniker. This is not a child-friendly picture, and it’s all the better because of it.

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