Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
Spain/France, 2012. Arcadia Motion Pictures, Sisifo Films AIE, Nix Films, The Kraken Films, Noodles Production, Arte France Cinéma, uFilm, uFund, Banque Postale Image 4, Palatine Étoile 9, Eurimages, Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales, Centre National du Cinéma et de L’image Animée, Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals, Arte France, Televisión Española, Canal+ España, Televisió de Catalunya, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Motion Investment Group, Mogambo, The Sundance Institute, Umedia. Screenplay by Pablo Berger. Cinematography by Kiko de la Rica. Produced by Pablo Berger, Ibon Cormenzana, Jerome Vidal. Music by Alfonso de Vilallonga. Production Design by Alain Bainee. Costume Design by Paco Delgado. Film Editing by Fernando Franco.
A woman dies in childbirth on the same day that her husband (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is barely rescued from death after being gored in the ring. Now physically incapacitated by his injuries and unable to resist the machinations of an ambitious, evil nurse (Maribel Verdú), the torero is locked away in the top floor of his mansion while his growing daughter Carmen is forced to do menial housework day and night.
In her teen years, a sojourn into the woods almost gets Carmen killed as her wicked stepmother gets her lover to try and do the girl in; she survives but loses her memory, rescued by seven pint-sized bullfighters who make her the star of their touring attraction. Carmen joins their caravan and eventually becomes a leading matador in her own right, drawing national attention to a fight with a full-grown bull that brings everything to its climax…but there is still an evil woman with a poisoned apple to deal with.
This Castilian-flavoured interpretation of a famous Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale is told entirely via the methods of silent film (complete with black and white photography and a 1.33:1 aspect ratio) that really adds to the aesthetic pleasures of the narrative. The surface is all that is there, however, for despite lively performances (Macarena García, with her Madonna 1987 looks is particularly charming in the lead), the weak ending undoes a lot of what it sets up, including an unsatisfactory resolution for its villainess.
It is neither memorable nor impressive, and does not work hard enough to earn its lack of resolution, but it is at least charming to sit through while it lasts.
European Film Award: Best European Costume Designer
Nominations: Best European Film; Best European Director (Pablo Berger)
Toronto International Film Festival: 2012