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quarta-feira, 1 de junho de 2016

Tale of Tales review: Python meets Pasolini in a very adult fairy tale

Director: Matteo Garrone. Starring: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, John C Reilly, Toby Jones, Bebe Cave. 125 mins; 18 cert
These aren’t the fairy tales your parents told you in bed at night: if they were, you might still be lying awake. For his latest film, the Italian director Matteo Garrone has abandoned the heightened social-realism of Gomorrah and Reality for something much older and eerier: a triptych of fables drawn from the Pentamerone, a 17th-century book of Neapolitan folk stories compiled by the Italian poet Giambattista Basile.
Tale of Tales dances on a razor’s edge between funny and unnerving, with sequences of shadow-spun horror rubbing up against moments of searing baroque beauty. The result is a fabulously sexy, defiantly unfashionable readymade cult item.
It feels a little like the lost fourth film in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life from the early Eighties, but there is an extra-mad sense of humour laced through it that also makes it a close relative of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s the kind of film you’ve spent the past 10 years wishing Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton would make.
Garrone and his three co-writers have adapted the three stories – The Enchanted Doe, The Flea and The Flayed Old Lady – with mostly admirable faithfulness, which, ironically, lends them a bubblingly strange revisionist texture.
Unlike the fairy tales we’re used to – which are largely neutered versions of the stuff collected by Basile, Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm – there are no straightforward morals to be swallowed, and the ever-afters aren’t all that obviously happy. Sweet dreams quickly curdle to swirling nightmare.
It’s the kind of film you’ve spent the 10 years wishing Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton would make
In the first story, John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek play a king and queen who are unable to conceive an heir, and are told by a wandering necromancer (Franco Pistoni) that if the queen eats the heart of a sea-serpent, in 24 hours she will have a son. In fact she has two, played by identical twin brothers Christian and Jonah Lees, who carry out a Prince-and-the-Pauper-esque ruse against their mother, and later end up in a cave fighting a completely terrifying giant bat.
The second and most perfectly achieved section features Toby Jones as an eccentric king who feeds a flea on his own blood, and then porterhouse steak, until it grows to the size of a baby hippopotamus, which leads in a roundabout way to his daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) becoming wed to an ogre.
Tale of Tales
The third is a macabre cautionary tale about a sex-mad prince (Vincent Cassel) who’s fooled into making love to a hag, who in turn is transformed into a beautiful nymph (Stacy Martin). Shirley Henderson plays the hag’s equally pustulant sister, whose own vanity leads her to a truly stomach-churning fate. Garrone cuts between the three strands in a way that’s at first disorientating, but the film’s constant movement between storylines ensures the strangeness of each one never stales.
Jones gives one of his very best performances here; by turns unnerving, pathetic, adorable and biliously funny. The scene in which he first discovers his beloved flea crawling on his arm is a masterpiece of clowning, with every action and reaction calibrated to the nearest millimetre. And his young, London-born co-star Cave is a revelation, giving a performance of blistering pathos and real comic punch.
John C Reilly and Salma Hayek in Tale of Tales
John C Reilly and Salma Hayek in Tale of Tales
The film was shot by the venerable Polish cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, who was behind the cameras on The Empire Strikes Back and various recent David Cronenberg projects, and who seems to have drawn inspiration from the haunting, tableaux-like illustrations of Edmund Dulac and Gustave Doré.
Garrone’s film is as rich and enveloping as ermine, but it wriggles with the mischief of the stoat it came from. Take the scene in which Toby Jones, in a dressing gown, lovingly cuddles his pet insect which has swollen to the size of a sow: it's the kind of half-chilling, half-uproarious dream-image Garrone ’ s film is overflowing with that feels like nothing else in cinema this year. These shaggy-dog stories might hail from a bygone age, but their tricks feel intoxicatingly new.

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