Tale of Tales: NZFF Review
The director of Gomorrah and Reality, Matteo Garrone, constructs a Brothers Grimm style triptych with Tale of Tales, taken from a clutch of Neopolitan fairy tales written by Italian poet Giambattista Basile.
In a kingdom (possibly not too far from the visual neighbourhood of Westeros) where monsters, hags, ogres, kings and princesses live, we settle on the stories of a childless queen (Salma Hayek) who turns to magic to achieve her dream, a king (the wonderfully expressive Toby Jones) whose daughter wishes to be married and a randy king (Vincent Cassel) whose libido knows no boundaries.
Garishly gothic and slavishly baroque, Tale of Tales is not going to be everyone's taste.
As we plough through the portmanteau, there are perhaps hints that the stories don't intersect perhaps as well as Garrone would like (a thought borne out by the final shot) even if they do inhabit the same universe. And there are certainly threads that, even when pulled together in the final stages, snap and dangle unconvincingly rather than neatly tie together.
However, it's the visuals and the performances that keep Tale of Tales on a course of cinematic voyeurism.
Certainly the practical creature effects assign the film a credence that would make Guillermo del Toro happy and the locations are truly something to behold- and the human elements are equally as pleasing.
An obsequious Cassel brings thrust to the bacchanal leanings of his king, Hayek has a tragic touch that the barrenness of motherhood can only bring to life, and Toby Jones steals the piece with his superbly expressive king who is more concerned with the love of a tick than the happiness of his daughter (Jones alone deserves praise for the physical comedy he conveys with just a few cursive expressions).
But beneath the veneer of these fairy tales, the miasma of sadness and the thematic bond is a relatively strong one, a reminder that these stories have their heart in bloody tragedy; however, it's a touch that Garrone perhaps fudges in the ultimate execution. The majority of the stories hardly have a satisfying ending and the conclusion of the film feels arbitrary rather than resolute.
Perhaps one to savour for the darker delicious edges rather than the narrative execution, Tale of Tales proves to be a visual feast - albeit a hollow one.