Tale of Tales (15)

three stars

Dir: Matteo Garrone

With: Toby Jones, Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel

Runtime: 134 minutes

THE title of Matteo Garrone’s fantasy drama in Italian is Il racconto dei racconti. Pretty. There is not a lot else that is pretty about these red-blooded stories of envy, murder and passion. There is plenty of sumptuousness, though, as well as terrific performances from Toby Jones and Scotland’s Shirley Henderson. These finely spun tales are not, repeat not, child’s play.

Since Angela Carter we are accustomed to the notion of fairytales as decidedly bleak, often bloodthirsty affairs. To this heady brew, the director of Gomorrah and The Embalmer adds a large handful of deliciously wicked humour. Here be tales of giant fleas, women who are not what they seem (step forward Shirley Henderson in gloriously cackling form), and ogres. It’s all done with a fabulous eye for detail, much of it gory it has to be said, adding up to quite the cinematic treat.

Its only failing, alas a serious one, is that at 134 minutes it is something of a marathon slog when a quick, light canter through the material would have made it more of a treat.