Hank: Although it’s not for the kiddos, 2015’s “Tale of Tales” is one of the most genuinely magical adaptations of fairy tales out there (that doesn’t come out of the Mickey Mouse Factory.) Of mostly Franco-Italian make, this anthology follows the happenings in roughly three Kingdoms, (or two Kingdoms and one Queendom.) In Queendom #1, barren Queen Salma Hayek has an all-consuming desire for children. Following a soothsayer’s unusual cure for sterility, Hayek’s obliging husband King John C. Reilly battles a sea monster, hacks out its heart, and delivers the palpitating muscle to the Queen’s dinner table- at an exorbitant cost.
In Kingdom # 2, the “Don Juan” tendencies of lecherous King Vincent Cassel lead him to the household of two ancient crones (one of whom is played by Shirley “Moaning Myrtle” Henderson). These two ancient sisters want to be loved as much as any of the court’s spry and supple beauties, and are willing to pay a high price for it.
In Kingdom #3, short-statured King Toby Jones (“Morgan”) develops an obsession with a trained flea that leads him to neglect the desires of luminous Princess Bebe Cave. Terrible example of fatherhood!
All three fairy tales, with their curving unpredictability, wind up illustrating one of life’s harshest morals: Be careful what you wish for, because, tragically, you’ll get it. Heck, don’t wish for anything, to be on the safe side.
Cousin Franz: Matteo Garrone is one of Italy’s greatest directors, and maybe “Gomorrah” didn’t convince you of that, but the assured hand he brings to this stealthy epic will. If one living director can channel a dead one, then “Tale of Tales” makes Garrone the new Pier Paolo Pasolini. And if you allow me that much, then you’ll have to admit that this is the most satisfying installment in Pasolini’s “Trilogy of Life”- which is now, at least in my reality-bending imagination, a “Quadrilogy.” A childhood-conjuring score by the ubiquitous Alexandre Desplat also merits applause.
Tracey: “Tale of Tales” is enchanting, but I have to give warning that being “enchanted” applies both to the pleasant dream and the nightmarish curse: both states often box it out in Fairyland.
Grandpa Felicius: And there were some among us who felt that Ridley Scott’s “Legend” was too dark for family viewing! I sat down to “Tale of Tales” hoping for Euro-Disney fun, perhaps some mild Salma Hayek sauciness, but before long I was gazing upon King Vincent Cassel orally milking the swollen bosoms of his courtesans! Who could have ever predicted such debauchery from a French monarch?
Beatricia: Too many times I’ve heard Grandpa Felicius extol the “Contes de Fees” of Madame D’Aulnoy, as well as Andrew Lang’s late 19th / early 20th Century Fairy Books. Luckily we get a break here, because “Tale of Tales” is based upon Giambattista Basile’s positively primeval collection (1630’s!): The “Pentamerone” or “Lo Cunto de Li Cunti.”
Trent: … Wha…
Beatricia: Yup, that’s about the earliest collection of fairy tales per se, at least in the Western mold. Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel all have sources in it. The Brothers Grimm cribbed heavily from “Lo Cunto de li Cunti,” and so did Charles Perrault.
Trent: Wha.. Whoa… “Cunto… Deli… Cunty?”
Tracey: It just means “Story of Stories” in Neapolitan, Trent.
Blurbarella: “Genuinely magical– enchanting– sauciness– In Neapolitan.”
5 out of 6 Cherries