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Sunday Film: Tale of Tales


Who didn't grow up hearing fairy tales about princess and princesses who manage to live happily every after at the end of a long or short road filled with many dangers? Well, Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) is about all those happy endings gone wrong, the jolly twist that fails to happen, the right aid showing up only the postpone a horrible or not showing up at all. It's as if most of the fairytales we know have been filtered through the brains of the Game of Thrones creators.

Based on the folk myths collected and published by the 16th-century Neapolitan poet and scholar Giambattista Basile, Tale of Tales takes a lot of plots and custom makes then into one big storyline directed by Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Reality, First Love). The result is tension-filled, bloody, sexual and as grim as it gets in its overwhelming feeling that life if often unfair and dirty.

"Ovid is mulched in with Hansel, Gretel, the Beauty, the Beast, the Prince, the Pauper, in no real order. At times, Garrone seemed to have taken inspiration from Michelangelo Antonioni’s own fabular tale The Mystery of Oberwald – at others, it felt like he had deeply inhaled the strange and unwholesome odour still emanating from Walerian Borowczyk’s Immortabl Tales. But there’s also a bit of John Boorman’s Excalibur, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Blackadder, The Company of Wolves, the Tenniel illustrations for Alice in Wonderland… and Shrek." (The Guardian)

tale of tales-old

The film tells the tales of three neighbouring kingdoms, each one rulled by a faulty king, queen or both. In Selvascura, a king and queen played by John C Reilly and Salma Hayek, try to live their life by distracting themselves with jokers in order to forget that they can't have children. The king loves his wife dearly and is willing to do anything for her so when a weird, tall man dressed in black comes to the doors of the castle saying he can deliver a baby, the king jumps at the occasion. Birth requires death, so the king has to slay a sea creature and get its heart, who will then be cooked by a virgin (alone in the room) and served to the queen (photo above). This odd ritual will result in instant birth, not one, but two. Both the queen and the virgin give birth after only a few hours of having been impregnated. The prince and the pauper are born, two albino twins who will have to struggle to maintain their brotherly relationship in spite of the queen's smothering wishes.

Meanwhile, in Roccaforte, Vincent Cassel plays a monarch who spends his time getting drunk and having sex with all the females in the kingdom. One day, he hears a beautiful voice singing and realizes there's one gal he hasn't touched yet. The gal happens to be a very old hag called Dora (played both by Hayley Carmichael and Stacy Martin) who never shows her face because she thinks she's hideous. Dora can't stand being old so when the king shows up at the door wanting to have sex with her, she pretends to be a young virgin. Ultimately, she tricks the sleazy king into having sex with her on the dark and even though the night ends badly - he throws her out the window after seeing her face -, destiny offers Dora youth (photo above) and the king eventually marries her.


Last but not least, there's the King of Altomonte (Toby Jones), who has a daughter that he seemingly loves though he pays little attention to. Instead, he picks a flea off his arm one day and nurtures it with blood (his in the beginning) until it becomes a giant creature that lives under his bed. When he finally decides to give his daughter the chance to marry, he has their suitors guess what skin he has on display - once the flea dies. An ogre wins the battle and the girl enters the nightmare of her life because her father doesn't imagine going back on his word in front of his people.

I'm not going to give away the ending of the story, but I will tell you that it doesn't really matter. The frenzy of gruesome darkness combined with touched of dark humor lure you in and give you a sense of carpe diem, inasmuch as the savagery you see can't be worsened or bettered by any particular ending.

Start with the trailer:

Tags:   review, Vincent Cassel, fantasy, film review, Salma Hayek, Tale of Tales, horror fantasy

Related:   Gomorra, Tale of Tales



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