Tale of Tales is a sumptuous looking adult fairy tale that makes for enjoyable viewing, however despite its top tier cast and quirky tone it’s all rather soulless and it fails to truly draw the viewer into its three interwoven stories.
Matteo Garrone’s first foray into English language is an adaptation of three stories by Giambattista Basile (The Queen, The Flea and The Two Old Women). Baisle’s works inspired the likes of The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, so you can guess the type of morality tales these are.
The Queen (starring Salma Hayek, and John C Reilly) sees a queen eager to have a child at any cost. This involves killing and eating the heart of a sea monster, but despite her hard work it transpires that her son doesn’t have the attachment to her that she would like. The Flea (with Toby Stephens) sees a king obsessed with his (rather large) pet flea and his love of the creature over takes that of his daughter. This leads to her marrying an ogre with tragic consequences. The Two Old Women has Vincent Cassel playing a yet another king who mistakes an old woman for a young maiden. He attempts to woo her and ultimately has a serious case of buyer’s remorse. An exercise of style over substance, Tale of Tales doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts. Despite being set in the same world, the stories don’t really fit together in an organic way and it’s very difficult to root for characters who are so superficial and unlikeable.
Tale of Tales is worth catching for its visuals and darkly comedic tone. It’s not bad by any means but Garrone’s film just can’t help but disappoint in it’s failure to achieve the potential of its tremendous concept.
Tale of Tales comes with a selection of interviews with the film’s cast. These are pretty in-depth but something on the film’s visuals would have been very nice.