DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

BLANCANIEVES (director/writer: Pablo Berger; screenwriter: inspired by the tale of “Snow White” from the Brothers Grimm; cinematographer: Kiko de la Rica; editor:  Fernando Franco; music:  Alfonso de Vilallonga; cast: Maribel Verdú (Encarna), Daniel Giménez Cacho (Antonio Villalta), Ángela Molina (Doña Concha), Pere Ponce (Genaro, chauffeur), Macarena García (Carmen), Sofía Oria (Carmencita), José María Pou (Don Carlos), Inma Cuesta (Carmen de Triana), Carmen Belloch (Mayor), Sergio Dorado (Rafita), Emilio Gavira (Jesusín), Alberto Martinez (Josefa), Jinson Añazco  (Juanín), Michal Lagosz (Manolín), Jimmy Muñoz  (Victorino), José María Pou  (Don Carlos); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Ibon Cormenzana/Jérôme Vidal/Pablo Berger; Cohen Media Group; 2012-Spain-in Spanish with English subtitles)

"It oddly looks like a cross between a Guy Maddin and Tod Browning flick, one that couldn't keep its straight silent pic pretense without shooting for something more modern."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz   

Beautiful images abound in this homage to silent films, a faux silent shot in black and white, that offers no dialogue. It's directed and written by NYU film school grad, a 50-year-old Spaniard named Pablo Berger ("Torremolinos 73"). Though seemingly dark and kinky, it still travels in a safe feel-good Disney way even if it seems to go into an extreme re-telling of the classic Snow White fairy tale from the Grimm Brothers. The title translates to Snow White, and is set in the 1920s in Seville, Spain. It oddly looks like a cross between a Guy Maddin and Tod Browning flick, one that couldn't keep its straight silent pic visual pretense without shooting for something more modern.

Spain's most popular bullfighter Antonio Villalta (Daniel Giminez Cacho) is gravely gored in the ring and survives to become confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. Antonio becomes inconsolable when his flamenco dancer/singer wife Carmen de Triana (Inma Cuesta) dies during delivery of a surviving girl, the cutie named Carmencita (Sofía Oria), who is raised by her doting granny Dona Concha (Angela Molina). When granny dies, the little girl is sent to live with her estranged dad and her evil stepmother, Encarna (Maribel Verdu), a nurse who schemed her way into becoming the wealthy hero matador's second wife. They reside in opulence on a vast country ranch, but the little girl is treated miserably as a servant by the now socialite upstart stepmom and forced to do the most unpleasant manual labor jobs on the ranch. Antonio is also treated by Encarna with contempt, as she openly has an ongoing affair with the chauffeur (Pere Ponce).

Carmencita lives in the basement with the other house servants and is not allowed to see her father, until one day she wanders into his room looking for an escaped chicken and the two take a liking to each other. Antonio passes on his bullfighting knowledge to her, as they simulate how it's done in his room during secret meetings. When Carmen (now played by Macarena García) is a teenager, the stepmom manages to dispose of her hubby and makes it look like an accidental death. The stepmom then orders her chauffeur to kill her, but before Carmen can be drowned she's rescued by the wagon traveling act of 7 Bullfighting Dwarves, who rename the amnesia girl Snow White. When they learn she knows the art of bullfighting, their act becomes well-known and they get signed by an unscrupulous agent (José María Pou) to perform in the ring in Seville where her dad was gored. Once again she is in danger from her stepmom, surprised to learn the girl is still alive and this time determined to get rid of the girl herself.

Instead of a happy fairy tale ending, Berger vies for a freakish poetic ending. It might be inventive, but it didn't warm my heart and leave me in an arthouse mood of bliss. Yet there's some Buñuel in its surreal strangeness, its Kiko de la Rica’s photography is festive and its social commentary is right in the fairy tale spirit, which is enough to make it in the very least a curious re-telling of Snow White.

REVIEWED ON 2/1/2014       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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