VERY loosely based on the fanciful writings of 17th century Italian poet Giambattista Basile, Matteo Garrone’s three interweaving fairy tales provide a sumptuous banquet for the eyes even if he leaves little for the intellect to chew on. Set in a quasi-medieval Europe with distressed damsels, hilltop castles, and treacherous chasms, Garrone fills your plate with fantastical asides like a king doing underwater battle with a sea monster or a pair of impossible twins whose fates are inextricably tied to one another, and he binds his separate tales with a traveling troupe of performers who always seem to show up at the right (or wrong) moment. Diehard purists will balk at the idea of fairy tales played out for the sake of pageantry alone—there are no lofty lessons to be learned here other than the vague price one pays for vanity or honour or obsession—but the costumes are beautiful, the “Once upon a time…” settings straight out of every bedtime story you ever heard, and a touch of magic graces every frame. Garrone and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky’s knowledge of light and colour turn some scenes into Renaissance paintings while the set design and art departments make sure monsters are monstrous and not one leaf is out of place. But the ample sex and bloodletting ensures these are not the kind of stories you’d want to tuck your kids in with.

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