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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Tale Of Tales (Blu-ray)
Tale Of Tales (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // September 6, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $22.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted September 22, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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Tale of Tales Blu-ray Review

Tale of Tales is a fantasy-drama from co-writer/director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah). It's a film loosely inspired by the book of fairy tales written by Giambattista Basile. The film is executive produced by Sheryl Crown, Nicki Hattingh, Alessio Lazzareschi, Anne Sheehan, and Peter Watson.

The film has a big cast of characters covering three different kingdoms. Each story in the film takes place in a different kingdom: Longtrellis, Strongcliff, and Highhills. As with most fairy tales, the stories told involves some magical and otherworldly aspects like dragons, creatures, and more. Throughout each of the interweaving storylines the fantastical, magical, and ordinary are blended together to tell these fables.

In the first story, the Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) is in want of a child and heir to the throne. Together, with the King of Longtrellis (John C. Reilly), the kingdom has failed to have an heir. When a elderly sorcerer gives unusual advice to the Queen on how to obtain a child, a quest begins to find and kill a dragon (from which the Queen must eat the dragon's heart after it has been cooked by a virgin). The result is two children are born (as twins to different mothers): Elias (Christian Lees) and Jonah (Jonah Lees).

In the second story, the King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) is an obnoxious, sex-obsessed, and self-absorbed king who wants to bed an unseen woman (when he hears her beautiful singing voice). What the king doesn't realize is his latest quest is an elderly woman: Dora (Hayley Carmichael).  But what happens when Dora turns into a young woman (Stacy Martin)?

In the last of the three tales, the King of Highhills (Toby Jones) becomes more obsessed with a flea than ruling his kingdom or figuring out the marriage of his daughter. The king is having difficulties serving the people and he ignores the wishes of his daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) (who is hoping to marry and eventually leave the kingdom with a husband). The King holds a competition to wed his daughter to a worthy suitor but he doesn't expect for an ogre to win his daughter's hand in marriage.

Each of the three stories interweaves into the next one and continues to do so until the end of the film. The unfolding storyline tells all three tales simultaneously over a period of time. The story thematic material explores obsessions with power, beauty, and youth. Indeed, the film is clearly exploring these themes through the various character-driven stories.

The production design is by Dimitri Capuani (Cold Mountain, Gangs of New York). The film has a large production canvas with large-scale sets, stages, and other production attributes: the three kingdoms are each given a detailed and elaborate production design. This is one of the most impressive aspects of the entire production. The work done on designing the kingdoms is certainly commendable.

The art direction by Marco Furbatto (13 Hours) and Massimo Pauletto (2016's Ben-Hur) gives the film a gothic art style. The stylish design aids the film's production. The set decorations by Alessia Anfuso (Walking on Sunshine) also help bring the film's elaborate production aesthetics an extra ounce of oomph.

Costume designs are by Massimo Cantini Parrini (The Woman of My Life). This is one of the most elaborate aspects of the production. Given that the film centers around several different kingdoms the costumes used throughout the film are designed for the Kings and Queens and what was created is appropriately exuberant. This certainly is an impressive effort by Parrini. Together with the make-up artists on the film, these design aspects help to create an authentic world.

One of the best aspects of the entire film is the score composed by Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Birth, Coco Before Chanel, The Grand Budapest Hotel). Desplat has crafted a beautiful sounding score for Tale of Tales: it's haunting and grand at the same time. The score adds a great deal to the fantastical elements of the film and it helps to highlight the filmmaking's frequently gothic designs.

The cinematography is by Peter Suschitzky (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Eastern Promises). This is a beautiful looking film from a cinematography standpoint. The style is certainly dark and has a gothic undertone. Throughout the film, it matches the style of the filmmaking utilized by the director.

Based on the book of fairy tales by Giambattista Basile, the screenplay for the film was written by Edoardo Albinati, Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, and Massimo Gaudioso. The film shuffles so many different storylines together that it sometimes feels less cohesive as a story as one might hope. The stories could have been expanded further: there are many sequences without any dialogue and which don't explore every aspect of the storylines. However, it's an ambitious endeavor: one which succeeds more than it fails. It has an interesting rhythm to it as well.

Directed by Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah), Tale of Tales is an ambitious project in scope with detailed production designs, elaborate costumes, and surprisingly strong special effects. The approach to the film is one that was certainly unique in comparison to most fairy tale films: interweaving each storyline through to the end is certainly a big task for the director. The filmmaking isn't perfect but the filmmaker's ambitions are so readily apparent that the film remains an interesting effort nonetheless. Tale of Tales is ultimately an effective (and unique) take on the fairy tale genre.   

The Blu-ray:


Tale of Tales arrives on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation. The film is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. The film has a strong technical presentation with good color, clarity, depth, and detail. The image looks sharp and pleasant. There are no major issues with compression artifacts or the like. This is a strong high-definition presentation.


This is director Matteo Garrone 's English language filmmaking debut. The audio is presented in the original English language with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound presentation. The film has a robust sound stage with good fidelity and depth. The surrounds are utilized to expand upon the score by Desplat quite well. While it's not a bass heavy presentation, the occasional action scenes in the film utilize the surrounds. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing) and Spanish.


Making Of "Tale of Tales" Featurette (HD, 56 min.) offers behind the scenes footage from the production of the film, clips from the film, and interviews with cast and crew members.

Please Note: certain parts of the documentary are in Spanish (without subtitles).

Theatrical Trailer  (HD, 2 Min.)

TV Spots (HD, 1 Min.)

Final Thoughts:

Tale of Tales is a remarkably ambitious film. The production design is exquisite and there are a lot of amazing visuals to the film. The story isn't quite as strong as one might hope for but it's still a mesmerizing experience that explores fairy tales in a unique way. The Blu-ray release features a strong technical presentation of the film and a decent length behind-the-scenes featurette. Fans of the film are encouraged to add the Blu-ray release to their collection.


Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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