Olé! A silent fairy tale that trumps any loud summer blockbuster with its seductive beauty and emotional storyline, this inspired marvel takes place in 1920s Seville, a classic period in Spain’s bullfighting culture, and is a mythic, operatic vision that harkens back to the golden age of Hollywood. 

A legendary matador, Antonio Villalta, takes on six bulls in a series of matches at the Seville bullfighting arena, while his adoring pregnant wife looks on. In the final round his concentration falters and he is gored, sending his shocked wife into premature labor.  While in hospital, both husband and wife undergo medical procedures. When the injured Torero awakens he discovers that he is paralyzed for life and his wife has died during childbirth. Only his newborn child, Carmencita, has survived.

The power of fairy tales on film is evident in this passionate tragic rendition of the brothers Grimm’s Snow White, using characters inspired by Bizet’s Carmen and Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932), Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves (2012), which played at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, is a work of art in its own right. 

The grief-stricken husband eventually re-marries an opportunistic diva nurse, Encarna, played by Maribel Verdú of Y Tu Mamá También (2001), and the child is sent to be raised by her loving grandmother in the Andalusian countryside. While there, she is happy but wonders about and longs for the father she has never met.

This inventive and visually alluring film has the seven dwarfs as a delightful traveling sideshow act, an evil stepmother as an S&M dominatrix, and Snow White as the daughter of a famous matador and a flamenco dancer. Everyone in this film has a classic beauty reminiscent of the old Hollywood studio portraits and gives appropriate melodramatic performances so iconic of the time.

After her grandmother dies, Carmencita is sent to live with her stepmother where she is mistreated. There she meets her ailing father for the first time and they secretly foster an affectionate bond while the gold digging Encarna, spends her time dressing in expensive clothes and vainly having her portrait taken for fashion magazines.

Snow White has been the inspiration for several new films in the past year that has seen a resurgence of films based on famous myths and folk tales with Mirror Mirror (2012) and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), and now a silent Spain/France co-production that fuses the famous children’s tale with Spain’s bullfighting culture, traditional Flamenco music and a fantastic score by Alfonso Vilallonga.

When her father dies mysteriously, Encarna has the teenage Carmen eliminated but she ends up being saved by a band of dwarf Toreros who perform in a hilarious traveling sideshow. In a Pinocchio inspired sequence, she joins the show and discovers her talent for bullfighting taught to her by her father and is soon recruited by a shady manager to perform in the big bullfighting arenas of Spain.

The poetic artistry of the silent film is making a triumphant return to cinema. The Oscar winning hit The Artist (2011) seems to have opened the door for filmmakers who love the early silent classics and want to revive this cinematic art form. If you liked The Artist, Blancanieves should definitely be on your ‘must see’ list. 

Be sure to catch this enchanting and unique film while it’s still playing in cinemas. The experience is well worth it.



Sally DeSmet said...

Wow, love your reviews. I'm trying to carve out some time to see movies -- and before I do, I will definitely check out your reviews. Thank you! :)

Susan Cooper said...

I always enjoy films like these. They take me away from my everyday life and transport me to a different place. That said I'll be keeping an eye out for this film. :-), Susan Cooper

Arleen said...

Great reviews. I don't go to the movies much mainly because it is hard to fine the time. This film really sounds interesting

Krystyna Lagowski said...

I just heard about this movie and am eager to see it! By coincidence, someone at a writers' conference I'm attending was talking about a book she had written about a female matador. Love the notion of black and white - the Artist was such an adorable movie that it may have spawned a trend. Thanks for your review.

Unknown said...

very good is good when somebody have the time to appreciate good films and know about them. Also this is that kind of film that the rest of the world should know about. very good John

Unknown said...

I left the comment uo there... heheh

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