Tale of Tales : A Film Review

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Director, Matteo Garrone. Cast, Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, John C Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Toby Jones, Bebe Cave, Guillaume Delaunay, Hayley Carmichael, Christian Lees, Alba Rohrwacher, Massimo Ceccherini.  Duration 2hrs 14 mins.

In English. An Italy/France co-production.  Cert. 15.

Height of Nonsense violently rendered

Even at five foot two inches Salma Hayek is in anyone’s eyes a fullsome vision so becoming a Queen bee is no stretch.  She is centrally the Queen Of Longtrellis who creates through witchery and incubation an albino son. The King to her melancholic Queen is Longtrellis, obidient (Reilly), then King of Strongcliff, sex crazed (Cassel) and King of Highhills, a ninkcompoo (Jones), Princess Violet (Bebe Cave) whose performance bricks and twists with ferocious skillful intensive acting as Jones intelligent self driven daughter.  Fellow Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (Youth) who bizarrely lived in the same building as the 47 year old Matteo Garrone without exchanging more than pinched expressions, due to attributed rivalry, has followed the theme of age obsession, most recently in the purely forthright Youth, set in a recuperation setting without compromise to modern cosmetic rituals and is probably best remembered by the naked walk of Madalina Diana Ghenea to the pool Caine and Kietel rest their bones poolside. This film is good looking but is at the other extremity – compelling throughout with the three stories interwoven it is very engaging visually.  Unfortunately it falls down by the injudicious skipping from one story to the next.  There may be a chronology to it but each time a switch is made the viewer may dislike it because they were getting into or carried away by the previous story.  A loose narrative; and Matteo Garrone said they are loosely based on the originals, leads us into calamity, conflict, twists and turns.  There are many, many dramatic shifts well choregraphed and delightfully executed. The good old terror strikes and the use of violence is sometimes heavy and of extreme visual effect.  Similarly the actors, from the poster girl chewing a heart with a bloodied face are part gore and part satirical.  It’s a cut throat world they live in and Matteo Garrone compares it to the present.  He should get out less. Comparisons with monarchies, governments and regimes and feudal terrorists apart it is a more civilised time we live in and factually so in war statistics.

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Strands of Golden Royalty

Three strands of royalty are each splendidly baroque fairytales .  The third strand has Toby Jones daughter taken into marriage with a cave-dwelling ogre (Guillaume Delaunay).  This is perhaps the funniest and more adhered to narrative.      It uses special effects to provide a fourth character – after Toby the King, Violet his unattached husband seeking daughter, an unsuitable candidate in Guillaume as the ogre – comes a flea which as legend has it has supernatural strength.  At least that’s what school taught us with them apparently towing small carriages.  The locations are stunning and this story has dense woodland and steep mountains as well as a hexagonal turreted castle in a barren hot dry landscape with more plain interiors than the others.  As locations go I noted down the credits to the areas. It listed as an Italian French co-production and locations, Sicily, Tuscany, Sermoneta, Alcatara.  This enterprise of the Production team is a major attempt at making Italy once again a renowned producer of quality cinema.  It looks to be an attempt at establishing ‘studio’ based film making; some of this was shot in Rome and the titles hinted at the tax incentives utilised and may steer any unscrupulous ‘investors or hangers on’ – Matteo Garrones Gomarrah concerned the Mafia but I’m not suggesting for a moment that cinema could be infiltrated by such nerdowells, heavens no!


This genuine skilfull adaptation of the 17th-century yarns of Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile whose followers were Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm becomes a bold retelling without using special effects, using minimal post edit manipulation.  The previous Mafia tale Gomarrah was a unique insightful form and here Matteo Garrone has an equally gritty approach as that ‘noir’ thriller and seems not so long ago but is of 2008 vintage.  Decant sets and adult themes are provocatively temptingly and unflinchingly choregraphed in this piece of three fairytales woven from the same surreal cloth.  All the actors play it straight which itself is a tough ask of self control but a reason it works.  They dispatch ludicrous situations in sumptuous settings and with nonchalant theatre as if it is reality.  Real as – feed a flea to become as big as a human, or real as – eating the heart of a dragon cooked by a virgin, hard to find there presumably to procreate or real as – a fight a sea monster for dinner.


Sermoneta


Roccascalegna Castle, Roccascalegna, Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy


Castel del Monte, Andria, Bari, Apulia, Italy Toby Jones therefore IS the man from del Monte.  Who’d have guessed!

  

Bebe Cave

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The Universe must obey our will.

Royalty has its pioneers and in Elizabethan England, particularly London the Queen set the tone for opulence and luxury. She had over three thousand dresses. Taking her inspiration from 1509-1547 Henry VIII House of Tudor, (1547-1553 Edward VI House of Tudor, 1553-1558 Mary I House of Tudor) 1558-1603 Elizabeth I House of Tudor was the fashionista of state brocade, lace, sables, baubles, magnificent surroundings and a mountain of learned volumes bound in velvet of Greek and Latin and more adorning the libraries. It is these allusions of court this film aspires to emulate in its decorous decant era setting design. Spanish, French and Italian all had an aesthetic seeking no comparison.

With every design of any object there is a rule not to be initially the same as anything seen before though all objects have their roots in others and are inspired by the lineage of design.  Everyone wants to stand out and be different, to define themselves by their surroundings and what they alter their appearance with.  Hunter S. Thompson had an opposite view, maybe because the first has limited prospect of being obtained and even exceptional wealth has its limits – just look at Donald Trump and his apparent 700 billion dollars – growing diminishing depending on who you listen too – HST said something along the lines of ‘there’s no point in turning up for your own funeral looking great and well preserved, in the finest condition because you looked after yourself, you could just as easily take the risks, experience difficult and challenging things, take one or two or more wrong turns and turn up and be proud to say, to yourself, My, that’s been one helluva ride!’  

Palazzo Vecchio


So while it speaks of the purity of a lust for finding all the life preserving comforts – with the cost of obtaining them – it speaks also of acting on instinct alone and tempting fate where all is thrown up in the air to land who knows where – the opposites overlap and create choices that confound.  Here the vision is caught with a sense of the fairytales realism in pursuit of the impossible dream.  It for example places great store by the creation of a Prince or Princess, except paternalistic politics of gender status are played out here as they would have been in the Italy of Giambattista Basile and right up to the present.  So no feminist vibe there then.  Also the drama of the settings is organic as well as man made, with ogres, creatures, the power of nature stating its case and the power of it is also on the ‘menu’.  Strong structural competing forces pressing on humanities composure.  The composure of being in charge of the grand magnificent universal truth commanding it to obey. The alchemy of material is one of mans finest achievements empowering as it does the molecular recalibration of our ability to exist longer than the ascribed predicting centuries.  It is also the author of an population apocalypse not awaited but upon us.

 Donnafugata Sicily       

and above right Castel del Monte, Andria, Bari, Apulia, Italy.  Toby Jones therefore is the man from del Monte!

The films theme(s)
The theme unhooking here in the film is as he Matteo Garrone suggests in interviews, one of contemporary vice also the words”violent desires can only be satisfied by violence” are central to the films pressing prescience.  Moral compacting of stories about vanity, desire and greed from the screaming fairytales of old and blood-spattered Neapolitan functional spleen bursting enormity of human depraved acts the film settles for less improvisation and Matteo Garrone manages to work the sets, the actors through much preparation and his abandonment of an earlier gift and skill for painting here becomes a mechanism to make you feel the emotions through a) The straight acting b) the visual feast of imagination realised without artifice of usual cinematic proportions.  Giambattista Basile’s “Pentamerone,” predates and even inspired many of the classics in repeated interpretations today through Disney from Rapunzel to Cinderella. As unhinged as the poet’s five-volume collection aggregated 50 fantastical stories where, it spun a spell of contemporary Neopolitain behavior with wildness, sexual insatiable appetites, animalistic projection, imploding violence. Little change out of the Euro or even lurid Old Britain there then.

The formula of fairytale moralising is ditched here to expose the Directors own mantra relating to the cosmetic values of life employed across the world with brand ‘Italy’ high most in the stakes of ‘model’ unique. Not exactly Shakespearian in analysis but fundamentally observant nevertheless. Audiences will extract therefore a more loosely picked narrative and incidental lesson of accepted values with these desires stronger than the individuals they belong to.  The person is to take a message of a self commanded life not measured against these extrodinarily hyper real visually stimulating tales propose.


Sermoneta

Matteo Garrone commands his own authoritive mark and what is interesting is the fact he has left creating paintings for his own reasons and invested that creative verve in cinema which we can enjoy and frankly be entertained by.  It is a very interesting take on things relying for its heft on instinct.  The feel of the film has gaps and occasional annoyances.

It matters not as this is the purpose of film, to reach into narrative and extract a new take on aspects of – ourselves mostly.  For the film maker he is intent on entertaining and doing so with an allegorical set of stories that hopefully bizarrely met with resonances in our lives.  This he and the whole cast and huge team delivering it do so handsomely.

Even the Star Wars and Fantasy genres approach comparisons with our own lives also, being necessary for audiences.

In interviews he cites Fellini’s studio Casanova and the giallo of Mario Bava as cinematic influences. The biggest influence by far comes from Goyas Los Caprichos, prints about 18th-century Spain saying “I kept them with me throughout the film. In those drawings I found all I was looking for.”  That is a very informative unselfish insight to the way the work comes out and is realised.  He also rejects because of the many constraints being tempted by the big magnets of American budget films.  Here he has a crafted indulgence in Englsh which defies many principles of not just life but theatre.

Conclusion ####4

Phantasmagorical sumptuous piece of emblematic Italian cinema interwoven with Italian fairytale folklore which predates and therefore informs the works produced by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm.  While this set of three stories of Kings and Queens are only very loosely related; they come together and it is not of any import, at a funeral and a wedding as far as I can detect.  The stories interweave not intersect and follow the fables according to director Matteo Garrone only loosely and his take on them is to deliver high grade, romantic settings in a believable set of surreal type environments which he creates using old screen crafts.  There is one period interior which is the setting for the Queen Longtrellis, which I take to be utilizing high tech printed white geometric wall paneling with a decorative colored dado which is theatrical and beautifully understated focusing on the drama it is within and not typical of any period though I’m no expert.  It’s just so intelligent a way to convey the intricacy of the environments.  Architecturally other exteriors interiors contrasting are well tended genuine period pieces well chosen.   The actors all play it without laughing at its bonkers themes and where it calls for blood and gore they welcome it with open engagement.  A very important element of one of the three stories requires two actresses to don prosthetics to make them the ugly mother and daughter in a reclusive village hideaway.  Cassels is the King to encounter this pair and it is a centrally brilliant piece of original fable telling with very unusual and beautifully delivered though fractured storylines.  This is a very strong piece of original film making contrasting as said previously – on the same theme of youth and vigour – with the other Italian approach Youth – and neither subtract from the the,Es but expand them showing cultural Italy is as good as ever.
John Graham

15 June 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from and including 17 June through to 23 June 2016.

The Lobster : A Film Review

THE LOBSTER
Cast Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia imageColman, Ashley Jensen, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw
DIrector Yorgos Lanthimos
Genre Comedy, Romance, 118 mins
Cert. 15 Country. Greece, UK, Netherlands, Ireland, France

The synopsis of The Lobster is one of mating in which our Greek director summons up in two halves basically future environments of firstly a hotel where ‘The City’ encourages singles to go and meet up with prospective partners. Secondly the movie goes outside the hotel to the woods were the romance obstacles unfold. To be without a partner has its drawbacks according to the sisterly Olivia Coleman proprietress and manageress of the hotel. Splendidly four or five star and located in – well imagine Kerry and the palatial Parknisilla near Sneem – and you won’t go far wrong. All lakes and mountains, hillsides, woods empty roads etc.
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Colin Farrell is our principal singleton having lost his partner and on checking into the hotel is set 45 days in which to meet his match.
His deadpan black comedy approach is very effective. He even instills a surreal way of speech which is manifest among all the characters here. It is one of perfect annunciation and lightly clipped dialogue. A narration is used in the beginning as a storyteller describing basically their vision of the adventure Colin Farrell has as his leitmotif which as he soon discovers is the nature of adopting a disguise, a guile which will extend his time and chances of success in the mating game. Isn’t that always the way of it! Only to be untruthful in even the slightest way has her a modicum of fatality as a consequence.
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Spoilers None
For you to be immersed in the full effect of the film I am NOT going to give you any account of how the title is represented. Instead I will skirt around it by giving some information on the creature itself and other oblique observances. Try as I might I cannot impart a reason to let you know what your in for as this tale is grotesquely and simply bizarre funny and futurist absurdist storytelling.

Identity is ensnared among a rag tag and bobtail of fellow date travellers.
We have the groups of females and males in this hotel who are troubled by finding themselves without a life partner for whatever reason and ‘The City’ functionaries have it as a requirement for the ‘corporate’ good and ease of operation a standard which is in this futurist world a stable norm.

What has become of us? The future asserts we need in pursuit of happiness something other than the Jeremy (Ca) Bentham epoch of the best public policy is that producing the greatest happiness. Private behaviour need be of the right moral act and that which produces the most happiness for the people it affects. The nineteenth century enlightenment. At another extreme is the shatter zone philosophy of Schoenberg that ‘we suffer through being born’ nothing is availing to happiness.

This film features for reasons that will become quickly apparent, legions of the animals of the type – perhaps the writers inspiration, the arc of the story (sic) – ‘the animals went on two by two’ – no similarity other than that! – appear throughout in their settled comfort or habitat of the Kerry skies and hillsides. Frequently visitors too. They appear as a tableau of a menagerie of beings, reminders of our companion creatures ever present unless carelessly extinction is abroad or in house.

Merits are on the roster of the Hotel lodging. All newcomers are able to extend their stay, and chances of ‘survival’ by joining the group trip to the nearby woods to hunt literally loners or the fringe radicals who somehow have evaded being caught up in the societal dictatorial modes operadi for living a stable existence and seeking and obtaining their own survival.

Partnerships under the circumstances take on a further dimension of dependency beyond the norms of individuality found in all sorts of marriages. Maggie from extras is a female recruit whose habit of offering her ever replenished supply of biscuits on anyone that she is remotely attached to. She also does a line on offering inducements that are off limits in the Hotel and is herself in need of others at a cost she has found appropriate.
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The self realizations are mostly visible and the characters adapt rapidly to the situation they find themselves in.
So has the secular socialism failed, the hubris of philistine culture prevailed, the oedipus of anxiety angst driven corrective religion and pacifism vanished? The welter of happiness is the prisoners dilemma of co-operation.

We are not allowed to see ‘the City’ dwellers lives. We are able on a few occasions to see their homes. A visit to Mama and Papa for one reveals a seemingly (blissfully perhaps?) couple who play classical guitar and are entertainers with felicity of Spanish historically reference times gone by music. The same meeting finds a couple inspired to display their bond slightly beyond social mores.

The film is magical horrendous infuriating dis-abandoned realism reconstructed outwardly complex standards and disposed morality.

The snap bite of death is ever present and comes in many forms.
Expect blood, murder, dismembering. Expect some scenes which are heartfelt and absorbing as empathy strange as it may manifest is released.

In the throes of Colin Farrell’s (David’s) survival we are introduced to the nameless woman narrator, that is to appear in the second half all trashed up but glitzy in attractiveness Rachel Weiss.
At first, Weisz’s character tells us David’s story, then she becomes a central part of the story alongside David. This is strongly lifting the level of the films sharp narrative. The development of the revealing personality divisiveness is resolved in true Romeo and Juliet determined belief in a partnership no matter how it has evolved. Even exchanges of gifts of a kind!
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My second half review filling diatribe
Daliesque (Salvador)
How do you like your decapod? Afresh from the saline and dull green and alive. A creature with a life in the sea. One large pincher for grabbing another for crushing. This extraordinary creature might be seen as a wonder of our varied existence and plainly not designed for eating though it has gained the hostility of being edible being boiled alive.
A worse death cannot be imagined. How surreal is beauty if not alien?
A concept of beauty I am now inclined to believe is the lobster. An astonishing machine for living as we are. Who wants t o be a Lobster seems to be the surreal connect and as Dali reflected they make a good representation as a telephone. Something sublimely surreal is they live to be 100 and if you extrapolate that in crustacean years does that make them thousands of years old and they circuit the globe avoiding lobster pots?
Blue blood allegedly? I once took from a wedding list a set of Lobster cutlery as their gift of choice and posh food was the entrée for a menu featuring quails eggs and a stunning wedding feast. The cutlery I eschew as apparatus, as I cannot conceive the thought of the killing of this creature no matter how centuries old the tradition has become as being necessary.

Suspend all concepts of love
Out of the director of Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos mind came a concept for a surreal near future world which has gathered in a stellar cast of inhabitants.
Rachel Weisz, sans husband Daniel Craig, chooses her roles very carefully and has been known to buy up rights to books such as Thirty Girls which is a story about the Ugandan resistance army in the vien of realism she found in 2006 movie The Constant Gardener which gained her an Oscar.
Stunningly attractive and far from the glamourous image she has to convey an ordinariness and moderately staid business like character here.

It is asking a lot as a scenario and it asks if love is found when you overcome self inflicted ideas on the obstacles or after you breakdown those self inflicted obstacles. Rachel is known as Short Sighted Woman and plainly has a physical handicap to overcome. People change in appearance over their lifetime so maybe she has no hang ups on looks. If only that were true were would …
Kindly she is dealt sufficient sight to discern a little of the concept and make up of her first Romeo. Remote from the New York vehicle she shared a stage last year with husband Daniel and counter point Timothy Spall in Pinters Betrayal this is a surreal set of problems we encounter and unearth.
It is a thriller of take no thought of tomorrow lest we lose the initiative type of thing! Is it about seizing the moments love and trusting in it?

Pop culture cinema and the makers
Take with you to the Cinema the theatrical tapestry of modern film anthropology. From the Daily News reveal of Frank Sinatra caring for and carousing at the table, Marilyn. The cocktail mixers in place, the effervescent Schweppes, with label, Quinine distilled, asking her to come to his futureproofed home at Lake Tahoe and provide the dreams she filled her loneliness with. Or the red carpet on a Sunday, rugby weekend where you would rather be in a warm place watching sporting history unfold if not at the event, rather than standing in black suit and bow tied with your arm on the waist of Kate, she in the fullness of a masterpiece A. McQueen dress which defines glamour and faithlessness.
Or the dreich downpour and walking in the rain to the next moorland scene in an Aussie cagauole and hear in the distance someone shout action.
The reality and unreal juxtaposed as we enter the contrivance of the cinema accepting its twists and turns suspending belief and summoning new ones.
This film will similarly place randomness alongside statis and neither will seem as clear as was once the case. Nor should it be. We have been allowed imagination as a birth right and such is the distinction we want underpinning – otherwise it is dreich.

The soundtrack of the movie is both perfect and annoying. Some songs and classical soundscapes are very effective while other elements are intrusive and snarling. Bring on blue eyes and Polka dots and moonbeams, East of the Sun, begin the Beguine, Poiniana, I fall in love too easily or any song as solitary testimony of the luxury of loves happenstance.
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Conclusion ####4
This is a film offering generous helpings of fascinating entwined lives and the surreal interactions are wisely contorted – through the voices and practicality of the language and dialogue – it’s attractive setting in the midst of abundant beautiful landscapes well photographed (Thimios Bakatakis’s) and the modernity of the fast evolving – construction traffic makes it appear, though it isn’t presumably, Celtic Tiger Ireland. Ireland constructed an incredibly false but real vision of itself as it redesigned its future given the bankroll. Plenty there in itself to think about desires and wishes.
Much to play with here beyond what you will see but it is ann insatiable polemic. After you.

They are.

John Graham

22 October 2015

Belfast

IS ON AT QFT FROM 22 October 2015 and selected dates.

CHECK THEIR WEBSITE FOR THIS AND MORE.

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