Thursday, September 27, 2012

Film: Blancanieves by Pablo Berger

Snow White! In Black & White! With Matadors! And since it is a silent film, it's viewable by anyone without subtitles. Now we just have to wait for distribution but you can read more about it at the following articles.

From San Sebastián Film Festival: Snow White hits Andalusia by Olwen Mears:

Time was silent cinema didn’t have to be visually engaging to hold an audience’s attention. With the advent of talking pictures, special effects and – more recently – 3D, that is no longer the case. Blancanieves, in monochrome and starring Maribel Verdú as the wicked stepmother, is nothing if not aesthetically stunning. Berger was clearly aware of the task he was facing in this respect, and for the most part he pulls it off. One scene in particular, in which Carmencita is reunited with her father, looks like something out of a Jan Pienkowski illustration.

Berger also adds some nice touches that pay homage to the medium and simultaneously tip the wink to the audience. A white communion gown is dipped into black dye and turned into mourning attire, while the seven bullfighting dwarves (based on reality, apparently) name the main character Blancanieves “after the girl in the fairytale”.

At 98 minutes, Blancanieves is the same length as The Artist, though it feels longer at times. I briefly lost interest towards the middle when the film felt cluttered, as if trying to fit in too much. There are several scenes between the young Snow White and her father, for example, when one would suffice, and there is a sense that the film is dragging its feet.

From Blancanieves: Toronto Review:

Blancanieves raises the question of whether the receptiveness of international audiences to black & white silent film homage was expanded or exhausted by The Artist. Comparison is inevitable, but these two elaborate exercises in cinematic nostalgia could hardly be more different. While Michel Hazanavicius’ Oscar winner was a playful valentine to pre-talkies Hollywood, Spanish writer-director Pablo Berger’s inventive Andalusian reworking of Snow White is a love letter to 1920s European silent film, liberally mixing humor and melodrama.

The Brothers Grimm fairy tale has been in revisionist overdrive lately, from the silly farce of Mirror, Mirror to the stylish action and minimal enchantment of Snow White and the Huntsman. Berger’s rethink is arguably more original than either of them, retelling the timeless story in a culturally specific new context, its distinctive flavor enhanced by Alfonso de Vilallonga’s sumptuous, flamenco-inflected score.

Berger sets both the opening and climactic action in a grand bullfighting arena in Seville, tying the Snow White tale to a national tradition that combines spectacle with fiery dramatics. And via the art of the toreador, he makes deft narrative use of a predominantly male ritual to give his heroine a contemporary edge.

From TIFF 2012: Interview with Pablo Berger, director of Blancanieves by Brandi Dean:

For the second year in a row, a black and white silent film is generating buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival. Blancanieves, the second feature film from Spanish director Pablo Berger, has audiences lining up to see the film twice. On Tuesday morning, Berger learned that the film has been shortlisted to represent Spain in this year’s Oscar nominations. Esteemed film critics have lodged rave reviews and Roget Ebert even went so far to as to suggest that Blancanieves has a fair shot at the coveted Blackberry People’s Choice Award.

Unlike last year’s buzzy silent film The Artist, Blancanieves is truly a silent film. While The Artist was modern film – a charming and entertaining one, no doubt – in the style of silent film, Berger’s movie goes all the way. This retelling of the familiar Snow White story, transferred to Spain and the bullfighting ring, harnesses all the power of the visual storytelling that is inherent in a film without dialogue. While silent film fans are going to go nuts over this movie (I know, I’m one of them), wider audiences, perhaps softened by the success of The Artist, are going to experience the full, almost magical spell that the best silent cinema can weave.

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