Blancanieves (Pablo Berger, Spain, 2012)

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There are some truly lovely moments: Angela Molina dancing with her grand-daughter, Maribel Verdú trying on Art Nouveau gowns, the bit where Macarena García is carried out of the bullring, the final tear. It is a re-telling of Snow White through clichés of Spanishness (Carmen, flamenco, bullfighting, the grotesque, esperpento) and using the style of late-period Silents. But I wouldn’t show this to children. There’s something very primal about fairy tales anyway: childhood reading of the Grimms have led to countless and long-lasting nightmares. But this touches on slightly darker areas, goes even further: not only murder, the killing of parents and children being rendered orphans but also s&m, a soupçon of sexual abuse. It all ends with a hint of white slavery, set in a freak show no less, and one from which there is no escape. It’s slightly camp, which is lovely  as it adds that touch of theatrical excess in gesture which an edit into the eyes  can then render as internal  and emotive (Angelina Molina and Maribel Verdú throw themselves into the Silent vernacular and are glorious with it); But in spite of all the lovely work on the image, there’s something slightly off about all the extreme wide-angles and the too-sharp focus; it seems to take us away from the dream/nightmare scenario; the contemporary is put too much in evidence. Obviously influenced by The Artist but offering greater depth and more sophisticated pleasures.  In the former cute little dogs wag their tale, beg for our applause and get it. Here, well let’s just say roosters don’t always get to crow another day.

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José Arroyo

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