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Tale of Tales


Stars: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C Reilly, Hayley Carmichael, Stacy Martin, Shirley Henderson, Guillaume Delaunay, Bebe Cave, Jessie Cave, Jonah Lees, Christian Lees, Franco Pistoni

Director: Matteo Garrone

Or: Twisted Yarns. This strange and fragmented film falls somewhere in the chasm between Grimm's Fairy Tales and The Decameron, as it switches between three seemingly allied kingdoms.

In the first, the (barren) queen (Hayek) is visited by a strange figure in black (Pisoni), who tells her that for her to conceive a child, the king (Reilly) must slaughter a sea monster and cut out its heart, which must be cooked by a virgin and then eaten by the queen.

Thanks to the monster being sleepy, this is achieved, although the king dies in the process, but the girl boiling the heart is not a virgin...

King No.2 (Cassel) is a debauched womaniser, lurching from one female body to the next, until he hears a sweet song coming from one of reclusive sisters (Henderson, Jessie Cave). Unknown to the king, they are middle-aged (and suffering from leprosy)...

King No.3 (Jones), beset with a daughter (Bebe Cave) who longs to be married, becomes attached (in more ways than one) to a performing flea; he feeds it up until it swells to giant size...

There are more twists and turns (and more monsters), as the daughter ends up married to an ogre (Delaunay) in a cave, and the queen and the 'fake virgin' give birth to white-haired boys (Lees twins), who look alike.

You can see that most, if not all of these tales are not going to end well. Performances on the whole seem rather forced (some of the casting is certainly a bit bizarre) but the film, elaborately dressed and set, deserves to be seen for curiosity value alone.

David Quinlan

France/UK/Italy 2016. UK Distributor: Curzon Artificial Eye. Colour (unspecified).
135 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 14 Jun 2016