Tale of Tales Screen 27 articles

Tale of Tales


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  • Garrone's film takes no new perspective on how to make the cinema feel or move like a fairy tale. Surely these tales take far less time to read or tell than it takes to watch this film. A vigor is missing, as is the sense of a contemporary vernacular mixing with something older. Feigning stories-within-stories, the effect is of several full episodes of flat, internationally co-produced television cross-edited into one big narrative.

  • The sort of brisk forward motion one might expect from a fairy tale is oddly lacking here, with each story twisting and turning to such a degree that it often feels like anything can or will happen. This arbitrariness wouldn't be a problem if Garrone were willing to grant all these plot shifts the unfettered quality they seem to be crying out for, yet at every step, the same over-expository dialogue and exclamatory musical cues bring each potential flight of fancy back down to earth with a thud.

  • [The film is] a sharp swerve away from the contemporary realism of Gomorrah (2008) and Reality (2012), but the film ultimately comes across as an oleaginous CGI Euro-pudding, with Garrone never quite sure exactly how high to crank the camp-o-meter at any given moment.

  • Thanks to very good CGI and a diligent DP (none other than Cronenberg regular Peter Suschitzky), the film looks pleasant if you’re into Middle Ages fetishism, dragons, albino twins, abusive ogres, and that sort of thing. The way Garrone elaborates the source material is pedantic in its refusal to give a moral dimension to the stories (something missing from the original).

  • Like the blandly designed, generally indistinguishable castles in which its stories are set, the film suggests a large outlay of funds frittered away on a white elephant slab of textureless whimsy, with little sense of how to transform its budget into something emotionally expansive or genuinely fantastical. Instead, it offers the spectacle of another director of reliable mid-tier art-house entertainments floundering in an expensive new venue.

  • Lurid, lush, and ludicrous, Tale of Tales works from Giambattista Basile’s 17th century collection of fairy tales of the same name, illustrating the ridiculous and superficial gloom of the ruling class. Skin and its mutilation is a major motif here, though that ultimately becomes ironic given that Garrone rarely gets below the surface of these curious concoctions.

  • That last tale is a wild ride, thanks to some hilariously unexpected twists of fate and a potentially star-making performance by Cave, whose facial expressions and vocal inflection uncannily resemble those of young Emma Thompson. But the other two tales feel relatively skimpy, with long periods of stasis between brief moments of bugfuck invention.

  • When Garrone allows for irony, Tale of Tales shines. The shot of Hayek in an opulent and pristinely white dining room digging her face into a massive bloody heart is delightful, as is the sight of Jones lovingly feeding and embracing the Cronenbergian flea. Unfortunately, Garrone plays it straight too much of the time and by treating his subject matter with self-important seriousness, he undercuts his fantasy, which often devolves into a stultifying farce.

  • The film moves swiftly into another story, and then another, bouncing back and forth in a structure of diminishing returns. Nothing quite adds up, and the formal approach to blending multiple stories comes off as arbitrary, and often clumsy.

  • All the bold, reliably gorgeous images in Matteo Garrone’s latest, “Il Racconto dei Racconti,” never satisfyingly coalesce. After making back-to-back eviscerations of contemporary Italian society with “Gomorrah” and “Reality,” Mr. Garrone has created a luridly illustrated, fitfully funny fairy-tale book that brings together — if not quite — various fanciful creatures, including a flea that grows as big as a Volkswagen bug.

  • Garrone squanders the sense of place and local Technicolor that made the previous two movies so good. The new film, his eighth, is set in forests and castles and caves. Some of the production design is superb, but the pacing is a different story. The humor feels waterlogged, the connection among the tales too vague for the undertow that dark comedy and good storytelling can simulate.

  • A triumph of design and photography (it’s shot by Peter Suschitzky), it resembles a deluxe version of those cheap-and-cheerful East German children’s films, such as The Singing Ringing Treethat livened up BBC teatimes in the 70s. Yet what genuine magic Garrone musters is drowned out by the creaking of the English dialogue.

  • Matteo Garrone’s wild and wildly superficial period piece Tale of Tales emits heat in different ways. The densely fantastical mise-en-scene appears to be inspired by The Princess Bride, but I found it closer to the oeuvre of Thomas Kinkade, whose cheesy landscape paintings have adorned American shopping malls for years. Maybe that was Garrone’s point.

  • Several moments in Tale of Tales exude primordial power, laced with a dry absurdism that unexpectedly gives way to tenderness (particularly in a story that's driven in part by another king's affection for a flea, which he nurses until it reaches monstrous dimensions). Eventually, though, Garrone's self-consciously patchwork, one-thing-after-another structure wears thin.

  • This all should be very eye-popping, and much of it is. What it is not, unfortunately, is particularly involving. This is Garrone’s first English-language film, and while it’s plain that such an ornate production as this is best financed with the English-language market in mind, the compromise of cultural specificity also yields a gnawing banality.

  • Taken as a whole, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what Tale of Tales is trying to accomplish, other than presenting a handsomely mounted fairy tale. And even that is a stretch at times. The elaborate costumes and makeup design look impressive, but the production values (especially anything involving CGI composite shots) appear cheap and televisual.

  • It’s a major departure from Garrone’s previous works of naturalism, one that plays like popcorn escapism for the arthouse crowds. What’s missing, however, is a moral or allegorical heft to the story strands, which aren’t edited to speak to one another aesthetically or thematically, each wrapping up with EC Horror-lite punchlines of fleshy grotesquerie. It’s all luridly entertaining, but has as much on its mind as a shiny new Marvel Universe cash grab.

  • Garrone, best known for the gangster film Gomorrah, deserves credit for preserving the sui generis weirdness of fairy tales, naïve and grotesque in equal measure, despite his tin ear for English. But this is one of those cases where a movie is ornamented by its defects. Garrone’s undiscriminating direction of the cast, none of whom appear to be acting in the same movie, textures the film with mismatched accents, somehow adding to its macabre humor and overall strangeness.

  • Love and family are astonishing letdowns for all concerned. With a focus on corporeal gore and psychological realism, Tale of Tales attempts to re-Grimmify the fairy tale, rather than fracture or deconstruct it à la the sly Into the Woods or The Princess Bride. The result is a film that doesn’t wink at the viewer as much as stare aghast at the self-interested evil that humans do.

  • It is surprise, not just random images and digressions thrown in the pot to raise a cheap titter. You can tell this by the immaculate detail of its production design, the careful framing and choreography of its shots (exacting without feeling showy or overly studied) and its overall tone of prestige literary baroque. It builds a world which sits at a modest but calculated remove from historical and temporal reality, and is all the more bold and beautiful for it.

  • 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... It feels a little like the lost fourth film in 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.

  • Like last year's WILD TALES, Matteo Garrone's TALE OF TALES is a film that revels in the art of storytelling, weaving together the parallels of four narratives that are unified in their extreme outlandishness. Unlike the accelerated pace of that film, however, Garrone's vision is intentionally meandering and dreamlike... Spinning a complex narrative involving strange twists of fate and tragedies amongst the ruling class, TALE OF TALES plays like a particularly macabre episode of Game of Thrones.

  • At times, the horrific eclipses the merely eccentric as necks are sliced and broken, skin is glued and flayed, and bodies are tossed from great heights... Sights like these give “Tale of Tales” its lustful heart and carnival soul, best distilled in the barmy lewdness of a scene in which Mr. Cassel’s king blissfully sucks a shy maiden’s digit through a wooden door. Finger-licking good, indeed.

  • Garrone doesn’t blow his budget on photo-realistic effects; he succeeds in conjuring a magical *feeling*, whether by exploiting the wonders of an octagonal castle, creating actual creatures for the sea monster and the lamb-sized flea, or staging human metamorphoses with stunning simplicity. He makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into a world where fickle gods play crack-the-whip with man’s—and woman’s—fate.

  • This is definitely a fairytale for grown-ups: It simmers with a mad, vibrating erotic energy, and its color palette, opulent and dusty at once, might be summed up as faded red-and-gilt boudoir... All fairytales have hidden meanings and motives, expressing everything from repressed desire to frustration with societal norms. There are doubtless hundreds of hidden archetypal complexities in Tale of Tales—but to bask in its weird, warped beauty is pleasure enough.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Thirza Wakefield
    June 03, 2016 | July 2016 Issue (p. 87)

    Reacting to the film's premiere at last year's Cannes, some complained that its three tales were artlessly tossed together. I can't agree; for me, the film's open weaver is an evocation of the orla tradition wherein all fairytales have their beginnings. There is something conversational, suitably pedestrian, about Garrone's loose, informal structure.

  • There are giant animatronic beasts and ogres and flayings and all manner of comeuppance, and it’s all presented with a narrative modesty that belies the opulence on screen. It’s wonderful. Stories like these endure because they’re imminently tellable, and Garrone has told the heck out of them.

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