Tale of Tales (2015)
In the old days, in the long, long ago, if jesters were what people had for entertainment it's no wonder war and risking your life as a passtime were so popular; Jesters are shit. Or at least every modern replication of them is. Perhaps Jesters were really funny, but I’m willing to bet the chance of a sword slicing you open or being gored by a wild animal was more enticing than living through another Jester act. A smug twat in a silly costume telling the same jokes, it must have been interminable once you’d seen the act twice.
What you haven’t seen before, is Matteo Garrone’s (Gomorrah, Dogman) Tale of Tales. Unless you’ve seen Tale of Tales before, of course. It is unique, bananas, mythology and morality tales and although it is short stories interwoven essentially it’s an epic anthology of the absurd.
With a rich/poor divide in the almost magical Kingdoms of Tale of Tales, there’s contrast and conflict for its fables. It is visually excellent, with regal resplendence to almost every scene. It has a quality of cast with a few of Garrone’s Italian cronies and some Hollywood too: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones and the aforementioned John C. Reilly. While its technical elements offer exactly what you’d want for your eyes and ears, Tale of Tales excels in simply being so unique.
Darkly and symbolically funny, abstract, absurd and at times annihilistic in its philosophy, Tale of Tales could have been written by the Brothers Grimm. Like the Grimm fables it's trying to fuck your brain and it's good at it, but it's also about humanity: our weird obsessions mainly. The desire for youth, envy, lust, revenge all rear their heads in Tale of Tales, and while sweeping through them it is funny, erotic, sexual and hopeful the film is paradoxically brutal and hopeless.
Just take what you can from the story, I really enjoyed just allowing my mind to wander into thought while being entertained. The point of morality tiles is sometimes to tell you that right and wrong won't save you, shit happens, and that’s the case in the film for some characters.
Like a dream, it's a series of fantastical surreal realities which you inhabit totally but fleetingly. All the same but separate, all different but part of the same. Things moving forward and jumping around but still inhabiting the same structure. It’s very difficult to describe and that is a compliment as it isn’t in a showy, overly clever Tenet way, Tale of Tales is pure, philosophical fun.
A rolling morality story, a wonderful, magical, complex and challenging film which never feels weighty, overbearing or self important. Tale of Tales is thought provoking and while its good looks, interesting stories and quality acting make it exceptional and entertaining, its dreamlike structure and fragmented philosophy elevate it to unique. 9/10