Tale of Tales (2015)

It doesn't happen every day that an Italian filmmaker works with international actors so I was very interested in seeing Matteo Garrone's Tale of Tales when it was released. Unfortunately (or fortunately considering how I felt about the film), it wasn't screened nearby and I eventually forgot about it. 

Inspired by a collection of tales from Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone, the film tells there intertwining stories: the tale of a queen (Salma Hayek) so obsessed with having a child that she is willing to whatever it takes; the tale of two elderly sisters, Imma (Shirley Henderson) and Dora (Hayley Carmichael), one of which reduces the king (Vincent Cassel) with her voice; and the tale of a princess (Bebe Cave) whose fate is in the hands of her  neglecting father (Toby Jones). 

Although it's fairy tales we are talking about, the plot is far from being mundane. It indeed takes some dark twists and turns as it mixes fantasy with gore, horror and blood. Unfortunately, it's execution leaves a lot to be desired and, instead of being interesting and compelling, the plot ended up being tremendously boring. And it's a shame because it got off to a very good start --the beginning of the first story is very exciting and gripping; unfortunately, as the second story is introduced, the film loses its grip --not only the other two stories are boring but they are also filled with fairy tale clichés. The first story is still interesting throughout the film but having those other two mediocre stories interrupting the flow of the first really ruined the film for me.

Just like the stories, the most interesting characters are those from the first story. The queen is extremely possessive of her son, she loves him and only him, and she expects the same from him. However, her son becomes inseparable with his identical twin brother from a different mother --she took instructions from a Necromancer to get pregnant and that's the result. She is possessive, overbearing and cruel and Salma Hayek does a wonderful job in conveying that. The rest of them are too one-dimensional and shallow to seem real and it's hard if not impossible to develop some sort of relationship/connection with them.

The rest of the cast is a disappointment too. John C. Reilly plays Hayek's king, a quite unusual role for him and therefore interesting; unfortunately, he dies within the first fifteen minutes. Vincent Cassel is completely wasted as the king who falls for the voice of one of the sisters. And Toby Jones, it seems like he didn't get his character, just like the audience. The rest is not even worth mentioning.

01 Distribution, Le Pacte
Despite the poor writing and consequent poor acting, Tale of Tales isn't a complete failure. The cinematography is indeed very good, the colours are wonderful, the sets are awesome and so are the rich-in-detail costumes and the makeup. Lastly, Alexandre Desplat's musical score is captivating as always.


  1. Un film dalle grandi ambizioni e dall'esito non proprio conforme alle aspettative... i tre episodi sono discontinui e disomogenei, alternando momenti sublimi ad altri di imbarazzante bruttezza. Ha però il merito di aver tentato una strada nuova nel cinema italiano, cimentandosi in un genere (il fantasy) che dalle nostre parti non ha mai avuto terreno fertile.

    1. Sono d'accordo per quanto riguarda il genere, motivo per cui mi dispiace abbastanza che il film non funzioni molto bene.

  2. I thought it was a pretty good film. I liked the messiness of it and the idea of obsession as it were the basis of fairy tales.