Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Tale of Woe

I haven’t needed literary inspiration this week: I’ve been sitting at my desk, working so hard that what I’ve needed most is a bit of respite. So I decided to take the evening off and go to the movies. And what I chose to see was Tale of Tales – a ‘gorgeous, grotesque triptych’ of fairy tales. ‘Fabulous, visually glorious, beautiful, inventive’ – at Cannes the critics loved it. And I like fairy tales myself, especially dark ones. (Angela Carter swoops by on a broomstick.) I like beauty, invention, imagination, and I like Salma Hayek.
Unfortunately, Tale of Tales is also very, very, very slow.  Salma Hayek (who has two basic expressions in this film: disappointed, and marginally less disappointed) plays a Queen who wants a child. Her husband, wearing a Pythonesque diving suit, and on the advice of a person who has clearly just escaped from some high-security institution, hunts down a sea monster in order to cut out its heart which is then cooked by a virgin, after which both virgin and Queen are simultaneously impregnated and almost instantly give birth to Albino twins. The Queen’s accent is uncompromisingly Spanish, the King’s is indeterminate (he dies, by the way – possibly a merciful release from a bad movie) but the albino twins are unquestionably American, and their fondness for each other causes the Queen even more disappointment. It might all get a lot better as it goes on, but after 20 minutes I’d lost the will to live, so I left.

If you tell me that I missed the point, that it really was a glorious, unique cinematic triumph, then I’m glad you enjoyed it. But I’m glad I went home and read Kate Atkinson’s book of short stories (Not the End of the World) instead. Her tales are better. 

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