Monday, October 3, 2016

Tale of Tales


   Tale of Tales lives up to it's name, providing audiences with a series of three fresh fairy tales of the ultra grim variety. The concept of a fairy tale has certainly evolved over the past hundred years. Nowadays, and for a long time now, the term 'fairy tale' has been synonymous with Disney movies like Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Simplistic stories of good vs. evil, light vs. dark- and so on. But, this movie reminds viewers that fairy tales used to be dark, complex, and challenging stories that might not always have a happy ending.

   Instead of easy cash cow 're-imaginings' like Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland, or Maleficent, or The Huntsman or any of those- movie studios and makers alike should take note of Tale of Tales. Eventually audiences are going to get fed up with underwhelming nonsense, (I hope) and the demand for more engaging and rewarding movies is going to skyrocket. Specifically in this genre.  As far as I know, the three stories in Tale of Tales are all original, yet they feel like they were unearthed from some old tome full of "children's" stories.

   There's the tale of the Queen who could not have a child, so on the advice of a mysterious wise man, her husband, The King, sets off on a quest that could hopefully give his queen a child.  But as the wise man warned, there will be consequences. And, that's just the first one. I don't want to spoil the other two, but really this is a bedtime story for adults. It's high fantasy that delivers up helping after helping of lurid content and bizarre visuals. It's full of sex and nudity, but it's not sexy or erotic. It's often uncomfortable and gross, which matches many of the characters in the movie itself.

   Sometimes the stories don't seem organic at first, with the way they end on something entirely unrelated to how they began, but what do magic beans have to do with giants who live in the sky? Dick-all that's what. Tale of Tales perfectly mimics that jarring transition from one oddity to the next. This isn't a flaw, on the contrary. It kept me glued to the screen. At first glance, each of the three stories seem very predictable, but they are all anything but. All three tales take place within the same world, and they all distantly influence each other- but nothing really direct. The cast is great, featuring names like Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Vincent Cassel, and Toby Jones.

   The acting from all involved is great, but it's the names and faces I don't know that impressed me the most. The movie was delightfully dark and wonderfully weird, and I'd love to see more like it. But, can they all be sleeper hits like this? The mainstream wouldn't know what to do with a flick like this and invariably, they'd water it down. As is, the movie is kinky, gory, and disturbing and that's in no small part why I loved it. Seeing Salma Hayek's Queen character, dig into the bloody heart of a sea monster, and start chowing down was worth the price of admission by itself. The rest of the 2 hour affair is just as lurid and fantastical.

   Stylish, understated, and respectably low key- Tale of Tales isn't a hilarious movie, or an exciting one, but it is a good one. It's full of lavish production design and fantastic sets. Stunning visuals and compelling allegory. It's often grotesque and odd, and in a lesser movie those might be complaints, but not with a movie like this. It's fascinating, engaging, and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. It generates tension and suspense like a horror movie, and with the visuals to match I guess that's probably the easiest genre to classify it as. It's a fantasy-horror movie, but again, it's one that doesn't shell out for easy stories or overly-familiar characterizations. Yet somehow, this feels like a natural evolution from the poisoned apples and beasts in castles that we grew up with from Disney. Familiar, yet... darker and more complex. I loved it.

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