In a nutshell: Tale of Tales is inventive, bizarre and unpredictable, with a good shake of black humour for seasoning.
Tale of Tales features: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly
Director: Matteo Garrone
Writers: Giambattista Basile (book); Edoardo Albinati, Ugo Chit, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso (screenplay)
If you’re a Perthite and like the idea of spending a summer night under the stars sipping wine while watching a funny, sometimes shocking, wildly inventive, and thoroughly whacked out flick (and who wouldn’t?), catch Tale of Tales at Somerville or Joondalup Pines. I saw it last night, when it opened its short run as part of the Perth International Film Festival season. Got a good audience response, and deservedly so.
It’s a trio of adult fairy tales – ie: contains sex and violence, and some stuff that young viewers might find disturbing, or more likely enthralling – loosely based on some early Italian tales (but puzzlingly, with the dialogue in English). Bit hard to follow for a while, because the stories are not clearly separated, and intertwine. Each features a king, and I found myself wondering how come there were three of ‘em sharing the same kingdom. Then I wised up. Bit slow sometimes…
One king slays a water dragon when told by a spooky, hatchet-faced, hooded mystic that eating the beast’s heart would provide the queen with a longed-for child. The mystic’s word proves true, but as in all the tales there is a payback, first for the gallant king, later for the queen, who pays a fearsome price for being a jealously possessive mother.
The king in the second tale has a secret pet flea that he feeds up to hog size. It’s a repulsive creation, like a maggot on legs, which its besotted royal master fondly strokes like a dog. The king’s daughter is bored and hanging out to get married and start a life of her own. Daddy promises her hand to any suitor who can correctly answer an impossible question (to do with his secret pet). To his bewilderment and his daughter’s dismay, an ogre who looks like he’s gone way too many rounds in a UFC cage comes up with the goods, and drags his bride off to a brutish life in his lofty and virtually inaccessible cliff-face cave.
The third tale features a lascivious king who spreads himself around, but lusts after the only woman he cannot have, an old crone he thinks is a beautiful young virgin. She lives in poor quarters with her equally haggard sister, and allows him to see only a finger, which she pokes through a hole in her front door for him to kiss and suck. When he eventually blows her cover (after bedding her in his darkened quarters), he has her thrown out the castle window to her death. Except she doesn’t die, and returns to him magically transformed as a gorgeous maiden. The payback is particularly savage, and not necessarily directed at the most deserving party.
There are strange-looking twin albino princes, a spring at the base of a tree that runs muddy when one of them is in danger, a bat-like monster who turns into their mother, an old forest-dwelling woman whose breast milk restores youth, and of course conventional fairy tale elements such as castles perched on craggy peaks. There is symbolism for those who seek it, and the stories allude to the stuff of real life, but as with any fairy tale, while Tale of Tales is grounded in the dramas, pitfalls and yearnings of life, it is also magical, nightmarish and transporting. Indeed, at the core of the film’s appeal are the fanciful aspects, the inventiveness, the embrace of the imaginative for its own sake, the head-shakingly unhinged. With black humour for seasoning.
This is one unusual and eyebrow-raising flick. Highly recommended.
2015-16 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival season dates:
Somerville: 4-10 Jan, 8pm
Joondalup Pines: 12-17 Jan, 8pm
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