director Matteo Garrone
viewed: 05/14/2016 at the Roxie Theater, SF, CA
Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales interweaves three fantasy stories derived from Giambattista Basile’s Pentamerone, a very early collection of folk tales, predating the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. A vast swing from his 2008 contemporary crime film Gomorra, Tale of Tales‘s luxuriant costumes and designs are often striking and impressive.
My favorite of the stories (my daughter’s favorite as well) was “The Flea” which features the very amusing Toby Jones as a king who nurtures a flea as a pet until it grows the size of a sheep. The king cares more for his flea than for his own daughter and when the creature eventually dies, he uses its freakish pelt as a challenge to win his daughter’s hand. The only one to guess what it is turns out to be an ogre. Go figure.
Garrone cross-cuts between the three largely unrelated stories, stretching out over two hours. While the stories adhere to their origins in many aspects, Garrone takes them off in different directions, too. Since these are not likely stories that the average viewer has ever encountered, it’s kind of interesting to try and figure out where they are going and what was originary and what is invented.
Still, I questioned the cross-cutting. The stories don’t really interweave or tie to one another significantly. And while you will be struck by a terrific image of a deep-sea diving king slaying a sea serpent or Salma Hayak eating its bloody heart or other gorgeous shots, it is overlong.
We watched the film at the “Little Roxie”, the first time I’d been in the alternate screen there. The kids really liked the theater.