Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. Italy/France/United Kingdom, 2015. Archimede, Le Pacte, Rai Cinema, HanWay Films, Recorded Picture Company, Ministero per I Beni e le Attivita Culturali,Fonds Eurimages du Conseil de l’Europe, Apulia Film Commission, Regione Lazio, Gamenet, Banca Popolare di Vicenza, Morato Pane & Idee, Amer, New Sparta Films. Screenplay by Edoardo Albinati, Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, based on the book by Giambattista Basile. Cinematography by Peter Suschitzky. Produced by Matteo Garrone, Anne Labadie, Jean Labadie, Jeremy Thomas. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Dimitri Capuani. Costume Design by Massimo Cantini Parrini. Film Editing by Marco Spoletini. Cannes Film Festival 2015.
Matteo Garrone turns away from the harsh contemporary realities of his recent films and applies his dark style to an adaptation of three fairy tales by seventeenth century storyteller Giambattista Basile. Salma Hayek is a queen who will do anything to have a child and must deal with the consequences of her determination, two aged sisters are rocked by one of them having an affair with a voluptuary king (Vincent Cassel, who is always on hand for naked perviness whenever a director needs it), and an eccentric king (Toby Jones) whose obsession with his giant pet flea leads to his daughter being taken as wife to a giant ogre. The narratives of these stories play like they were written by someone who kept pen in hand while having a virulent fever or taking hallucinogenic drugs, not lacking in sense but lacking a throughline and definitely not created for the purpose, like many fairy tales, of teaching a moral or practical lesson (at least not one I could glean). Given that these tales involve giant insects, sea monsters, Salma Hayek eating a giant heart and Shirley Henderson paying someone to flay her skin, the dark, crazy details of the stories should result in more eccentric fun, but Garrone directs like he’s creating the Gomorrah of fairy tales, heavy-handed and humourless and perfectly unconcerned with the fact that his tales all conclude without any closure after over two hours of sad wandering.