• Tale Of Tales

    Released By: Shout! Factory
    Released On: September 6, 2016.
    Director: Matteo Garrone
    Cast: Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones
    Year: 2015
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    The Movie:

    Based on the dark fairy tale writings of Giambattista Basile, 2015's Tale of Tales, a competitor for the Cannes Film Festival Palm D'Or gathers three stories of three kingdoms together to paint a fantastic portrait of medieval times. In the Kingdom of Longtrellis, the King (John C. Reilly) and Queen (Salma Hayek) are dismayed by their inability to have children. The night after a performance by local jesters brings the Queen's emotions to a boiling point, the royal couple are visited by a strange old man in black, who claims to hold the key to conception. First, says he, the King must slay a sea creature in a nearby lake, and remove its heart. Said heart must then be cooked by a virgin, who must be alone in the kitchen during preparation. Lastly, the Queen must consume the heart, at which point she will feel life growing within her. However, warns the stranger, with each birth comes death; a balance of the forces of the universe. Not one to give a good goddam about anything other than birthing an heir to the throne, the King and Queen go forward with the tasks, with the good King venturing into nearby waters to spear a giant white lizard that dwells in the murky depths. Unfortunately for the King, he underestimates the beasts tail, which fatally slices him open. The (still-beating) heart of the creature is nonetheless delivered to the Royal kitchen, where it's prepared for consumption...but in a bizarre twist of fate, both the Queen AND the virgin cook are impregnated. Sixteen years later, the Queen is angered by her albino son Elias' allegiance to his bastard twin brother Jonah, and makes the decision that has Jonah banished from the kingdom upon threat of death.

    In the second tale, the King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel), one given to having lusty threesomes with buxom medieval beauties, becomes curiously aroused when he hears the twilight song of a nearby peasant woman. So intrigued by this song is the King, that he decides he must make the acquaintance of this imagined beauty, no matter how much he has to grovel. Unfortunately for the randy Royal, the song belongs to one of two very old and very unappealing dyer sisters, whose fleshy assets are now sagging and leathery. Not wishing to miss out on getting boned by a King, however, the sisters devise a plan in which the songbird will present only her finger, which she uses cosmetic trickery to appear younger, for the King to suck on through the door. His thirst not quite quenched, the King DEMANDS further action, threatening to take it by official decree if he must. Employing further cosmetic trickery that involves gluing boobs higher up on the body, the singing spinster agrees to some bedroom action, but only under cover of night and completely in the dark. The King agrees, but after firing his mighty arsenal, finds that curiosity hath gotten the better of him, and he throws the curtains wide to reveal his wrinkly conquest. Horrified, he orders his guards to throw her from the balcony in the royal bedclothes, which break her fall and suspend her from a tree. A neighbourhood Witch happens along, and casts a spell that turns the sister into a ravishing beauty, who will no doubt meed the King of Strongcliff on her own terms.

    A very bizarre third tale rounds out the collection, and takes place in the Kingdom of Highhills, where the King (Toby Jones) becomes enamoured with a flea. Yes, a flea. A trick flea. While his daughter Violet speaks of marriage and becoming a Queen, the King focuses on his new-found insect, teaching it to do neat things like pull miniature buggies and the like. Taking flea maintenance to the next level, the King decides that his flea should have only the best of meals, and puts the flea on a diet of the most select cuts of bloody meat. Before long, the flea grows to a gargantuan size in the confines of the King's chamber, and becomes a beloved pet. But, as beloved pets often do, the flea becomes ill...and even the Royal Veterinarian can do nothing to make the flea better. When the flea sadly passes, the King comes up with a grand idea to turn his loss into a means of preventing his daughter's marriage, and he skins the flea and hangs its outtards in the great room of the castle. Inviting Violet's suitors to, "Guess That Hide", the King promises his daughter's hand in marriage to whomever wins the game. A number of good-looking eligible bachelors fail to come through, however, as they guess everything from deer to manatee, and it looks like the King will be spared the hassle of providing a wedding, until a horrible looking, deformed man storms in, sniffs the skin, and pronounces it to be flea leather. With no choice but to announce the winner, the King hands off his daughter to the ogre, who drags her up to a carcass-filled cavern high in the mountains, where she will live out her life of daily beatings and cave raping.

    Featuring some fairly interesting source material, decent performances, and a dash of dark and unsettling gore, Tale of Tales should be a winner for any fans of fantasy and tales of Kings and such...but it's not. For every cool shot of a castle or other piece of scenery that really exists in real life, there's a digital shot that looks as fake as fake can be, ruining the atmosphere. For every solid casting decision (Cassel nails it here), there a weak link in the talent that takes the picture down a notch. Garrone's Direction here can be described as pedestrian at best, employing nonsensical devices like John C. Reilly's "helmet cam" to add a flash of "oooo!" to the picture, but it often backfires, and there's no tension, no suspense, no driving force behind the camera work.

    Adding to that is Tale of Tales' biggest flaw, the decision to interweave the stories and put them all in the same universe, which could have been done far more effectively; instead, we get a mess of plot and information fired at us, which lends itself to confusion. And with some shots and sequences going on far too long, resulting in a film that severely overstays its welcome at 135 minutes, the conclusion that editing is a major problem with this film can be drawn. Tale of Tales has got some potential on display here, but flawed execution renders it as overambitious and ineffective.


    Shout brings Tale of Tales to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer that looks very good and very modern. Detail is crisp, while colours are well-displayed without being vibrant. Night scenes don't suffer at all, either, and the only drawback is that some of the effects come off as sub-par because the picture is so clean.

    Two audio tracks are provided, an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and an English 2.0 DTS-HD MA. Both are sufficient, with the edge going to the 5.1 for carrying the score and some of the ambiance into the surrounds for a more immersive experience. Dialogue is clear throughout and focused in the centre channel, and doesn't suffer from any issues with distortion or dropouts.

    English and Spanish Subtitles are provided.

    Making of Tale of Tales (56:22) is first up in the supplements, a lengthy behind the scenes that consists largely of footage shot on-set. Interspersed with this footage are interviews with cast and crew, as well as a more detailed look at the special effects. It's longer than it needs to be, but for viewers interested in seeing a director giving direction, this making of has it in spades.

    A Trailer and two television spots are also included.

    The Final Word:

    If fantasy and dark tales ye seek, regardless of a crisp SyFy-like transfer, then Tale of Tales is for you. If Witches and Kings be not your thing, you may want to quest elsewhere.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      I actually really like this film I own the Artificial eye uk release. I do agree though that at times the editing could be better and there is one point in the story that I found myself puzzled.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Fair enough, different strokes and all. I thought that mixing up the stories was a bad decision, and some of those tracking shots, man.....on and opn and on.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      I think it had mixed reviews on its initial screening at Cannes. Probably explains why it has taken so long to get a dvd/blu release outside of France. The French release was available over a year ago on Blu-ray.