New to Blu: Shout Factory: Tale of Tales - Reviewed

Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly
Now on Blu-ray and VOD
Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory is the new film from Italian director Matteo Garrone, who brought us the highly acclaimed mafia drama Gomorrah (2008). This time he returns with Tale of Tales, based upon some of the earliest fairy tales known to have been written by Italian poet and author Giambattista Basile (1566-1632). His work had been relatively neglected until the Brothers Grimm had offered him a great deal of praise. The Grimm Brothers are the most celebrated authors of folk tales and their stories have been adapted by numerous filmmakers. This adaptation of some of Basile’s stories is a grotesque and erotic affair that pushes further than any version of Grimm had ever done before, creating a visually stunning and mesmerizing dark fantasy world reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Fall. It takes three of his stories and weaves them together like an anthology.

This is simply a feast for the eyes, with its combination of exquisite set locations, intricate period costume designs, practical special effects and makeup, and the use of colors to create unique imagery. It was shot in various locations throughout Italy, including three highly detailed and distinctive looking castles, a stone labyrinth, and the striking tuff caves in Sovana. The rooms and furniture within the castles are also meticulously ornate and further add to the dramatic visuals. The practical effects include makeup and prosthetic skin to age a pair of women and also the production of several unusual creatures. This should get consideration for Academy Award nominations in costume design, production design, make-up, and visual effects.

The direction and cinematography are simply outstanding and with such amazing locations and designs to play with it should come as no surprise. Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky is a veteran of the industry with a pretty impressive track record of motion pictures that he was involved with and directors that he collaborated with, including a long history with David Cronenberg. The camera work is flawless and masterfully crafted, with so many impressive and memorable sequences. Without spoiling any plot points, there are dramatic overhead shots of the castles and other locations, the landscapes and forests look excellent, and many scenes that are focused on a juxtaposition of colors. One great scene features a completely white room, a black chair and the actor dressed in black, with a large red object on the table. The orchestral score is superb from composer Alexandre Desplat, who has been nominated for an Academy Award eight times and won for his work on The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly
Lay off of me, I'm starving!

The main stars are Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, and Toby Jones. They all give good performances, but have only so much to work with due to the fact that this is an anthology focusing on three stories that are loosely intertwined together. I read some complaints about the dialogue and its translation from Italian to English; however I didn’t feel that any of it detracted me from the story. The narrative does jump around, alternating between each the story throughout the entire movie. It still stays in a linear path and doesn’t make it difficult to keep up with what’s going on.
While the story may not impress everyone, there’s no denying that the filmmakers delivered an eye-catching R-rated fairy tale.

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-Raul Vantassle