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Matteo Garrone’s “Tale of Tales” was one of the most divisive films at Cannes this year. A collection of three fairy tales, the film has memorable elements, but works better in parts than as a whole. Will Guy reports from Nisimazine at Cannes.

the-tale-of-tales-matteo-garrones-new-movie-2015-with-salma-hayek-john-c-reilly

When watching a film it is often difficult to set aside our preconceptions and simply consider the experience it offers within the cinema. It is too easy to fall back upon the warped vision of the film brought about by marketing material and word of mouth. The risk is that the film does not meet those expectations, and that we recoil from it before considering what value its true form may offer.

Tale of Tales is an example of this tension. Based upon a series of 17th century Neapolitan fairy tales by Giambattista Basile, led by Matteo Garrone of Gomorrah fame, and teamed with cinematography from Cronenberg’s Peter Suschitzky, we might predict a dark and steady adaptation of an exaggerated world filled with moral significance. Sadly, that prediction haunts the cinematic experience when we find Tale of Tales to have missed its mark. However, an open mind may find redemption at last.

tale-of-tales-casselGarrone has proven himself capable of intercutting between separate stories. His first feature Terra di mezzo began as an assemblage of short films, while his more recent Gomorrah builds a thematic collage from individual parts that expand exponentially into a thematic whole. It is then no surprise that he arrives in Cannes with one film built from three tales; each with its own king, queen, and horrific absurdity. Salma Hayek offers a queen who will go to any length to obtain her child, while Toby Jones delivers unsound fatherly advice, and Vincent Cassel plays the ridiculous sex addict he was born to portray.

These stories share obvious thematic connections. Each tale revolves around love and obsession, a form of attachment so strong that it drives its captive to the dark extremes so often omitted from contemporary fairy tales. Like any story of this kind, the film attempts a lesson in morality through the developing relationships between its characters. This places great responsibility upon the actors, leading to moments of brilliance from Toby Jones and Shirley Henderson. It is hoped that these occasions overshadow the more clunky passages of dialogue that pervade the film.

19-tale-of-tales.w1200.h630However, the film trips over its own structure. The three stories feel poorly integrated and imbalanced, obstructing smooth development and ultimately leaving the film divided. As we transition from one tale to another we fall from the peak of one to a passive moment within another, frustrating the viewing rhythm rather than leaving us on the edge of our seats, as intended. These issues are made all the more frustrating when we consider the boundless potential that should be expected of Garrone. Some traces of that prospect do remain within the film.

The cinematography continues to deliver hyper-real fantasies that seem to spring from page rather than screen, coupled with a dark humour that carries over to the film’s moments of barbarous violence to invite gasps followed by guilty laughter. In retrospect, these are the elements that stick within the mind, albeit as glimpses within an unsatisfactory whole.
the-tale-of-tales-matteo-garrones-new-movie-2015-with-salma-hayek-ogre-violetAs a fairytale its quality may be judged on its ability to lodge itself within our memory so that its themes and images drift back to us when they match up in some way with events in our future. Time can only tell whether Garrone will managed this, but for now we can merely hope that we will soon forget those parts that left us wanting more.

This article was originally written by Will Guy for the Cannes Nisimazine workshop. Visit nizimazine.org for more film festival content. 

Nisimazine

Article produced in the context of a Nisimazine workshop. For more information please visit our website at www.nisimazine.org.

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Posted on May 25, 2015

2 Responses to “Cannes 2015: “Tale of Tales” has glimpses of greatness but fails as a whole”
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  1. Salma hayek is a great actress, i cannot forget her perforamance in desperado.

  2. Avatar Mark says:

    I loved this movie but Salma eating dragons heart was not fancy 🙂

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