Probably one of the strangest watches you’ll find at the cinema, which doesn’t mean it’s bad in any way. In fact, this is an Italian-French-British production that tickles heavily the fantasy taste buds leaving you lapping up the richness of the film.
We see three stories throughout, one is about the love a mother has for her son. Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) is adamant her miraculous child cannot see his similar friend leading her to severe over-protection. In another tale we find less than doting father of Highhills (Toby Jones) taking amazing interest in an insect over his daughter Violet (Bebe Cave). Then there’s the haggard sisters who accidentally gain the attentions of lothario King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel), as he hopes to sleep with ‘her’ not knowing how they look.
Together these are a wonderful collection of stories, bonkers but wonderful. Taken from the works of Italian poet Giambattista Basile this film goes between three rather interesting tales. It’s also cool to mention that Basile came up with fairy tale collections before the Grimm Brothers had, so these are very old narratives. This fantasy horror movie doesn’t exactly flit between the stories as we end up in each story for a chunk of time but it helps us get to know that certain place and the characters which inhabit that landscape. It feels far from rushed or pacy, in fact it’s a movie that takes its time in breathing surreal and dark life into every inch of the frame.
For his first English language movie as director, Matteo Garrone makes a beautiful portrait. I feel that’s the best word to use because upon viewing this, you’ll easily notice how much like a work of art this film is. The colours, the texture, the costumes and more besides help give it a fully embodied depth, making it more than a paper-thin fantasy. It’s got a serious bite to nearly every look, the establishing shots are stunning, the static shots help us take in the world and Garrone directs knowing how to handle something very different for the audience members seeking exactly that.
Amongst the blood, genuine comic moments and mature quality, this movie is helped by a fantastic score. Alexandre Desplat has an incredible amount of great titles under his belt and he can squeeze in another one as he gifts this fantastical folklore filled feature engrossing music. From the tension of the moments a King goes in search of a sea monster to the fleeing of an ogre, this movie is scored wonderfully and looks the same thanks to the painting or cinematography by Peter Suschitzky.
Salma Hayek is an interesting watch even if her segment isn’t the most interesting of the trio. She’s staring and almost silent as a mother wanting to be a mum and look after her son, she balances the darker side of her nature very well also. Vincent Cassel is funny and charming yet mildly sleazy as the Casanova of the piece. Toby Jones acts a buffoonish man playing comedic delight in finding love for a flea and stupidly setting up his daughter in a guessing game, which Bebe Cave acts really well in. She’s bright eyed and loved up but wants more, then she gets to do more gritty acting as she finds herself in a trapped situation.Shirley Henderson and Hayley Carmichael as the wrinkled siblings are very good. Their section is my favourite and the way they play their parts is captivating to watch, they ooze that tragic shunned act and Macbeth witches vibe. Every cast member is great to watch and adds something to every moment of each story.
Sometimes slow but always bursting with sensual Italian Baroque style, comedy, eye opening dark adult moments and beautiful shots, this is a movie to wallow in just for that niche difference and visual design.