Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Blancanieves is the official foreign language selection from Spain, a revisionist take on the Snow White staple, it self already presented with such American works as Snow White & the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror this past year.  The differentiation, or what may be more closely read as the what The Artist hath brought, and more importantly is that film's massive awards and international pedigree, is that Blancanieves brings about the novelty of being a black and white silent picture.  And while derivative in content and context, there's certainly a novelty and charm that runs through director Pablo Berger's take on the Grimm tale that's bouncy and spirited and affirms that ones connection to fairy tales can be translated almost anywhere and anyway.  It's likely the closest in spirit in contrast the American products, primed as star vehicles and smug genre readings, and the most formally respective.  Instead of a kingdom in far far away, Blancanieves imagines the fair maiden an orphaned heir to a prime lineage of bullfighters, her father being one of the greatest, and in a nice way frees the heroine from eventual martyrdom.

Antonio Vallalta (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) is a prized bullfighter and king of the ring, admired by many and loved by his beautiful and dutiful, and very pregnant queen.  A freak accident leaves Antonio paralyzed and the distress prompts his bride to kick the bucket during child birth.  The charge in every great fairy tale is the entrance of the villain, in this case Encarna (Maribel Verdu, of Y Tu Mama Tambien and Pan's Labyrinth fame), as the deceitful nurse taking care of Antonio.  She's an altogether different take on the Evil Queen, one not of magical gifts, but of duplicitous power and all imposing glares.  The silence allows Verdu to play up and over accentuate every gesture with a purposeful pose.  Her vanity has no ends, and, of course, wants nothing to do with the young child left in the shadows or to potentially cast herself off the side of luxury.

Carmen (played by Sofia Oria as a child and Macarena Garcia in adulthood) is first shipped to live a fanciful childhood with her grandmother, forever longing for her father to come.  A tragedy sends her to father and Encarna, who's held the once triumphant bullfighter to sequestered quarters in full invalid confines.  She insists Carmen makes no contact with dad and quickly enlists her to partake in arduous chores, signifying alpha control and odious contempt at all cost.  The impish and inquisitive girl breaks these rules and starts engaging with a genuine relationship with her father, who in efforts of both humility and bedazzlement teaches Carmen the ways of his trade.  The story continues, much as the story dictates, with the similar bits of further paternal abandonment, Evil Queen business and the entrance of the dwarfs, themselves a pint-sized calf-fighting traveling act.  Blancanieves travels the same wobbly steps its supposed to, and at times drags a bit more than it should considering the acquaintance any filmgoers will have with its tale, but still manages a few charming sights and performances along the way.  The rhythmic and delightfully tuneful score plays its cues a bit too sharply from time to time, but sets the mood nicely as does colorfully gray costumes by Paca Delgado (on ace year with this and Les Miserables) and inventive camera work by Kiko de la Rica.  B

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