An odd film with curious structure, yet enjoyable to some extent.
This joint Italian/French/British production (in English) is based on three of the fairy/folklore tales of a Giamballista Basile of whom I, (like you?), had never heard.
Based in a medieval, mythical country of castles, royalty and peasant folk, monsters and sudden transformations, the three strands, essentially independent of one another, are told simultaneously, with frequent flitting between them without any warning or notice. Connections between them, if any, are very tenuous. As in children's fairy tales, there are regular moments of violence and gore, though their depiction is generally not without a certain restraint. But unlike, say, the Brothers Grimm's tales, which tend to be shortish and to the point, these three stories are considerably extended fables which, at the end of two hours plus, just stop in mid-air. If you're expecting happy-ever-after endings this film doesn't provide them.
You might find, as I did in two of them, faint echoes of 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'The Prince and the Pauper', though I wouldn't care to stress it.
Another story concerns a king who, by chance, hears a sweet voice singing and is enraptured by it, assuming it to be the song of a comely young maiden, though in fact it's from one of two old and wizened sisters. He is determined to meet with this 'delightful' creature, whom he eventually persuades, unseen, to be entertained in his bed, though she'll only agree if it's in total darkness. (That's a 'taster' for you!)
A competent cast includes Salma Hayak, Vincent Cassell and Toby Jones - and John C.Reilly also makes a brief appearance.
Photography is impressive and as sumptuous as one would expect for a fantasy setting.
Director Matteo Garrone manages to hold our attention largely because, at least in my case, I was continually wondering what was happening in the two stories other to the one that was being played at any given moment. I never once yawned and only looked at my watch once or twice.
A film off the beaten track, then - and a film with some merit even if it hadn't been so unusual...............6.5.
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