Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dallas IFF 2013 Review: BLANCANIEVES - Javi's Take

Directed by: Pablo Berger
Written by: Pablo Berger
Starring: MAribel Verdú, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Ángela Molina, Antonio Villalta, Macarena García 
Synopsis: A highly stylized adapatation of the Snow White story against the back drop of 1920's Spain and the still-popular bullfighting scene.

Realistic updates of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales are all the rage now with one of the biggest and most recent updates being SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. BLANCANIEVES chooses not be so much of a remake or adaptation as it is a parallel story to Snow White. The fascinating aspect wasn't so much what they chose to keep in from the original story but what they chose to add in. In addition, the movie is billed as a tribute to the black and white films of so long ago. While the results are varied, the highly stylized set design, costumes, and the changes to the story are what keep the movie interesting.

The black and white aesthetic looks absolutely stunning. There was a small fear that the movie would end up trying to look "retro" or add artificial effects. Even though there was probably some of that, BLANCANIEVES looked like a modern movie that happens to be black and white. Shooting an entire movie like this is hard to do for most modern directors. It's easy to make modern B&W movies look like an amateur student film, but director Pablo Berger manages to shoot some really great footage with a clear sense of what's going on in the movie. The one drawback for the more purists/stuck up types is that there's a lot of very apparent digital editing. In that regard, the movie's style might seem more like a gimmick than an actual homage.

In addition to being black and white, the movie is also technically a silent film. I say technically because there's still sound effects and copious amount of actual music in the movie. The times that we hear music is during a very important scene where there's a song playing. The dialogue is is really nothing to write about since we only got a few random dialogue cards, which were all decently translated from Spanish.

The actors were all in great form. Given that they couldn't actually speak, they had to do a lot more physical acting. Both of the actresses that play Carmen, (the Snow White/ Blancanieves character) Sofía Oria, who plays the young version, and  Macarena García, who plays the older version, where both amazing to watch on screen. They play the same character very convincingly as they both showed that same sense of curiosity and confidence of Carmen. I was particularly enamored with Ms. García, maybe it was her big eyes, but she had such a classic look, and her acting was amazing to see. Maribel Verdú also manages to chew the scenery like no one's business as the Evil Queen role. She is always making grand gestures coupled with plenty of shouting and is just a delight to watch her be evil. Introduced very late in the movie were the dwarfs, and this time around, they are six mini-bullfighters who are all nice and charming. However, they have very little time to shine.

The story itself has quite a few issues of being very unevenly paced. The movie chooses to focus a little too much on the set-up and unfortunately the last third of the movie suffers greatly for it. A good 10-15 minutes of the movie ended up being about Carmen's parents, and then subsequently whenever she's a very young girl. This wouldn't have been a big problem if it at all paid off a little better.

BLANCANIEVES does take a more stylized approach to a classic fairy tale that ends up being an interesting experiment in shooting a silent black and white movie. It comes up short on the script side, but the acting makes up for it.

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