Tale of Tales (2015)

Rated 15
Spoiler Free

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.

Clearly having grown very bored of his Jesters, and in order to cut its heart out so his wife can eat it for her fertility, Tale of Tales opens with John C. Reilly’s King of Longtrellis hunting a giant sea-monster. It is an astounding scene and sets the tone for this visual and ambitious film, as does what happens once his quest is complete. There are so many story lines in Tale of Tales that to discuss them all would be tedious and in my opinion spoil the film, so I’ll talk about it as a whole.

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.

You start wondering what this and that mean and it's deliberate, Tale of Tales is a deliberate moral-melee soup. Humans naturally look for patterns, action - reason - consequence. We're always looking for a motive, and we're always looking for its repercussion. But for Tale of Tales (written by Edoardo Albinati and Ugo Chiti with the director) the world has no consequence. Consequence has no bearing. Everything is random. It’s not even as chaotic as having goodies who are bad, baddies who are good, sometimes neither is either and you're wasting your time trying to understand completely.

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.

Bedsit it?

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

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