Wednesday, May 24, 2017
2017 Cannes Marathon: Tale of Tales
(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival)
Based on the collection of tales Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile, Tale of Tales is a collection of stories that would become the basis for many different fairy tales that are told in a surrealistic presentation. Directed by Matteo Garrone and screenplay by Garone, Edoardo Albinati, Ugo Chiti, and Massimo Guadioso, the film follows three different stories that mixes elements of realism and surrealism. Starring Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Toby Jones, Kathryn Hunter, Shirley Henderson, Stacy Martin, Hayley Carmichael, Alba Rohrwacher, Jessie Cave, and Vincent Cassel. Tale of Tales is a rich yet offbeat film from Matteo Garrone.
Based on three different stories by Giambattista Basile, the film revolves around the fate of three different kingdoms and their encounter with something mysterious and unique. The first of which involves a barren queen whose husband sacrifices himself to get the heart of a sea monster for a virgin to prepare where both women would give birth to an albino boy who become friends much to the queen’s dismay. The second story involves a king who becomes fascinated by a flea in his hand during a performance from his daughter as he keeps it as a pet until its passing where an ogre identifies its skin and takes the princess. The third and final story involve two old women who enchant a womanizing king with an operatic voice as one of them tries her best to look young as she later meets a witch who would do that leaving the other sister behind wanting to be young.
The film’s screenplay would crisscross through each different story though the characters from all three different stories would rarely meet as it play into a world where these character all want something. Each narrative would build up into something such as the Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) is keen on winning the affection of her son Elias (Christian Lees) but he’s more concerned in maintaining his close friendship with the peasant boy Jonah (Jonah Lees). The story of the King of Highhills (Toby Jones) and his love for the flea would be a story about neglect as it relates to his daughter in the Princess Violet (Bebe Cave) whom he unknowingly gives her away to an ogre (Guillaume Delauanay) because he correctly guessed the skin of the king’s dead pet. The story about the King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) and the two old women in Dora (Hayley Carmichael) and Imma (Shirley Henderson) relates to Dora’s desire to be young and become the object of desire for this lustful king. All of these stories share the common theme of selfishness as well as neglect and sin.
Matteo Garrone’s direction is definitely very stylish as it has elements of surrealism as well as references to classic fairytales. Shot on various locations in Italy, the film does play into that world of medieval times as it is the right setting for where these fairytales were created as it also borders into the world of the absurd. Garrone would use a lot of wide shots to capture not just the scope of the locations including the different kingdoms but also in the castles themselves as they all display a different personality into the people who rule them. There are also usages of close-ups and medium shots to establish the characters and their situation as Garrone would infuse moments that are very dark but also have this odd sense of surrealism where it is obvious that Garrone is taking some of his ideas from the works of Federico Fellini. Still, Garrone would provide his own ideas of style as it relates to some of the violence that Elias and Jonah would encounter as would Princess Violet and Imma in their own stories. Overall, Garrone creates a chilling yet whimsical film about three royal leaders and their selfishness.
Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the usage of unique lighting schemes for some of the interiors including the scenes at night as well as the naturalistic look for some of the daytime exteriors. Editor Marco Spoletini does nice work with the editing as it is quite straightforward with some stylish cuts to play into some of the offbeat humor and drama as well as in some of the transitions. Production designer Dimitri Capuani, with set decorator Alessia Anfuso and supervising art director Gianpaolo Rifino, does amazing work with the look of the castle interiors as well as some of the look of the caves and places the characters encounter. Costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini does incredible work with the costumes from the lavish gowns some of the women wear to the clothes of the man including the ragged look of some of the characters including Imma and Dora.
Hair designer Francesco Pegoretti and makeup designer Gino Tamagnini, with special makeup effects and creature supervisor Luigi D’Andrea, do fantastic work with the look of Imma and Dora as old women as well as the wigs of some of the characters as well as the look of the sea monster. Special effects supervisor Leonardo Cruciano, along with visual effects supervisors Bruno Albi Marini and Nicola Sganga, does terrific work with the visual effects as it’s mainly some set dressing as well as in the design of the flea and its movements. Sound designer Leslie Shatz does superb work with the sound in creating some sound effects as well as capture much of the atmosphere in the recorded sounds at the different locations in the film. The film’s music by Alexandre Desplat is great as it is one of the film’s major highlights with its rich orchestral-based score as well as in the string and piano arrangements.
The casting by Jina Jay is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Kathryn Hunter as a witch that Dora meets, Franco Pistoni as a necromancer who gives the Queen of Longtrellis instructions on what she has to do to get a baby, Guillaume Delaunay as the ogre who takes Princess Violet as his bride, Massimo Ceccherini as a circus performer who would save Princess Violet, Alba Rohrwacher as a circus performer who would see Princess Violet and plan her rescue, Jessie Cave as a sweetheart of Jonah, and John C. Reilly in a small but superb performance as the King of Longtrellis as the man who would hunt down the sea monster and get his heart for his wife. Christian and Jonah Lees are terrific in their respective roles as Elias and Jonah as two albino young men who have a strange connection to each other as if they’re brothers as they try to hold on to their friendship against the demands of Elias’ mother. Hayley Carmichael is wonderful as the older Dora as a woman with an angelic voice who craves to be with the lustful King of Strongcliff while Stacy Martin is fantastic as the young yet more vain version of Dora.
Shirley Henderson is excellent as Dora’s sister Imma as an old woman who would help her sister woo the King of Strongcliff as she would be left behind as she is desperate to try and find a way to become young again. Bebe Cave is brilliant as Princess Violet as a young woman eager to get the attention of her father as she is suddenly put into a situation that she didn’t want to be in forcing her to deal with matters by herself. Toby Jones is amazing as the King of Highhills as a king who becomes attentive towards a flea he would keep as a pet as he would put his daughter into a contest unwilling to go against his word as king. Vincent Cassel is remarkable as the King of Strongcliff as a man who lusts over beautiful women as he is someone that is quite vain as well as eager to fulfill his own desires. Finally, there’s Salma Hayek in a phenomenal performance as the Queen of Longtrellis as a woman eager to have a child and hold on to it as it’s a performance filled with anguish but also a determination of someone who is selfish in her love for her son and refusing to think what is best for him.
Tale of Tales is a sensational film from Matteo Garrone. Featuring a great ensemble cast, an inventive screenplay with very compelling themes, dazzling visuals, and a sumptuous score by Alexandre Desplat. The film is definitely a strange yet intriguing film that explores the fallacies of desires and power in the hands of people who are consumed with their own bullshit. In the end, Tale of Tales is an enchanting and exhilarating film from Matteo Garrone.
Matteo Garrone Films: (Terra di mezzo) - (Guests) - (Roman Summer) - (The Embalmer (2002 film)) - (First Love (2004 film)) - (Gomorrah) - (Reality (2012 film))
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