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Tale of Tales




Fairy tales often contain dark and adult themes that are sanitised for young consumers. This is not the case with Tale of Tales, Matteo Garrone’s adaptation of three tales by Giambattista Basile. Bloody bodies, extracted hearts, exposed breasts and buttocks populate the film, within gorgeous Italian locations and sumptuous cinematography from DOP Peter Suschitzky. Garrone favours a steady, often detached visual style, with many long takes following characters from behind as they move through richly tactile environments. These environments are populated by three loosely connected tales: the Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) struggles to control her son Elias (Christian Lees); Princess Violet has troubled relations with her father the King of Highhills (Toby Jones); two aged sisters attempt to curry sexual favour with the King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel). Garrone’s great strength as a filmmaker is commitment to his dark materials, as there are various points where the viewer might expect the tale to baulk at the sheer extremity of the events, but it doesn’t. Nor does the film overplay its hand with gratuitously graphic gore, remembering at all times that these fairy tales are morality tales and the message is the moral more than the manner of its manifestation. Morals about parenting, duty and vanity, among others, populate the film, never over-emphasised but treated with just the right balance, making Tale of Tales a thoughtful, measured and compelling watch, if not always the most comfortable one.


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