Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" First Look At 'The Dying Of The Light,' Paul Schrader Quits Film Over What Nicolas Winding Refn Calls "Artistic Disrespect" First Look At 'The Dying Of The Light,' Paul Schrader Quits Film Over What Nicolas Winding Refn Calls "Artistic Disrespect" New Images From 'Interstellar' Arrive, Christopher Nolan Says The Film Is A "Mirror" Of 'Inception' New Images From 'Interstellar' Arrive, Christopher Nolan Says The Film Is A "Mirror" Of 'Inception' Watch: New Trailer For ‘Kingsman: Secret Service’ Starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson & Taron Egerton Star Watch: New Trailer For ‘Kingsman: Secret Service’ Starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson & Taron Egerton Star Chilly New Banner For Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Explores A Cold New World Chilly New Banner For Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Explores A Cold New World 15 Films That Failed To Hit The 2014 Fall Festival Circuit 15 Films That Failed To Hit The 2014 Fall Festival Circuit Watch: Steven Soderbergh Re-Scores And Changes Steven Spielberg's 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' To Black-And-White Watch: Steven Soderbergh Re-Scores And Changes Steven Spielberg's 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' To Black-And-White Watch: Have A Threesome With Very NSFW Clip From 'Maps To The Stars' With Julianne Moore & John Cusack Watch: Have A Threesome With Very NSFW Clip From 'Maps To The Stars' With Julianne Moore & John Cusack First, Mostly Rave Reviews Arrive For David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' First, Mostly Rave Reviews Arrive For David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

Review: 'Blancanieves' Doesn't Necessarily Transcend Silent Film Gimmick, But Still Proves To Be A Rewarding Fable

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist March 29, 2013 at 2:09PM

Fetishize the past all you want. The silent era gave way to a flood of cinematic storytellers ranking well amongst the greats. You didn’t need sound to realize a filmmaker like Fritz Lang was stretching the medium so far that it would take a couple of decades of talkies for anyone to match his vision. Similarly, the early silent works of Alfred Hitchcock belie a startling vision and knack for experimentation not commonly associated with filmmaking at the time. There’s a reason we think back to the silent classics of yesterday: some of those film are absolutely phenomenal, still enthralling today for the film buff with a bit of patience (a small percentage of the populace, but whatever), and still transformative, capturing the imagination in ways some contemporary THX-scored noisemakers fail to do.
1

Blancanieves
Fetishize the past all you want. The silent era gave way to a flood of cinematic storytellers ranking well amongst the greats. You didn’t need sound to realize a filmmaker like Fritz Lang was stretching the medium so far that it would take a couple of decades of talkies for anyone to match his vision. Similarly, the early silent works of Alfred Hitchcock belie a startling vision and knack for experimentation not commonly associated with filmmaking at the time. There’s a reason we think back to the silent classics of yesterday: some of those film are absolutely phenomenal, still enthralling today for the film buff with a bit of patience (a small percentage of the populace, but whatever), and still transformative, capturing the imagination in ways some contemporary THX-scored noisemakers fail to do.

Blancanieves

But there’s a reason we don’t make silent films anymore. A lack of sound isn’t a tool itself, but rather an unnecessary handicap that places a deeper responsibility on the craft of the filmmaker. Recently employed in the Best Picture Oscar winner “The Artist,” Michael Hazanavicius only had interest in the lack of sound as a cheap gimmick. That gimmick is eventually botched as Hazanavicius employs a style of editing from the forties and beyond, and a sense of rhythmic editing from even after that. Moreover, given that the film deals with a silent star who cannot transition to the talkies, it’s even demeaning: the familiar story would carry more weight if we grasped his conundrum with sound (and perhaps color), but the lack of sound only patronizes the audience into embracing the lead and demonizing innovation, the last part of that decision not motivated by politics or point of view.

Fortunately, in the case of “Blancanieves,” the silent film concept is best served with a less rigorously academic approach, attached to the theme of a timeless fairy tale instead of a vainglorious show business satire. This would be another “Snow White” story, following last year’s “Snow White And The Hunstman” and “Mirror Mirror." But while 'Huntsman' trapped its heroine in a tired world of “Lord of the Rings” fantasy-battle clichés, 'Mirror' managed to mock the original fable by turning it into a musical treatise on aging in Hollywood. “Blancanieves” takes a different tack, bringing the action to 1920s Spain.

Blancanieves

This film’s Snow White is Carmen, a sweet little girl who reverently adores her kindly father. Little does she know that behind the scenes, his caretaker Encarna (Maribel Verdú) has arranged to seize the sickly old man’s cash, becoming a queen herself as he slides into the afterlife. From there, Encarna entertains slaves and lovers, some considerably younger than her, as Carmen struggles to find out the truth about her father’s passing. With some casual familial catfighting, Encarna reveals herself to be territorial and demanding, enough to not understand Carmen’s refusal of the flimsy explanations of her father’s death.

Eventually, exile arrives and Carmen, now in her teenage years, must struggle to survive despite having enough smarts and ingenuity to avoid Encarna’s charmless thugs. Seeking refuge in a circus, her search for a father figure leads her into the arms of seven mismatched dwarves. In a bit of a modern twist, she takes the opportunity to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a bullfighter, gaining assistance and friendship from her seven small partners, all of whom are in love with her to varying degrees.

Blancanieves
You don’t need to know the resume of Maribel Verdú to know that the “Y Tu Mama Tambien” star is this film’s meal ticket. With an equal division of screentime with her co-star, Verdú’s ferocious sexuality projects that she was meant to become the fairest of them all by sheer force of will. Verdú vamps and growls and genuinely looks gorgeous in the film’s black and white. There’s a reason this role went to Charlize Theron and a hammy Julia Roberts in last year’s “Snow White” films: it’s the chance for an (relatively) older actress to break through and have some naughty fun. Verdú seems like she’s having fun without being campy, a smile that is likely to hint at a temporary façade used while the wheels start to click into place. Her Encarna seems far enough ahead of the game that it almost seems unfair to the other actors that scenes with Verdú are destined to result in her overshadowing them.

The film stays true to its silent roots with a musical score that seems appropriately chintzy. Even if PETA activists won’t be amused, there’s a grace and grandeur to the bullfighting scenes that, portrayed with black and white editing and photography, make the sport seem larger than life: they’re shot in an immersive manner that puts to shame the 3D theatrics of most in-your-face blockbusters. And director Pablo Berger’s film also manages to find a neat twist on the classic formula, integrating the poisoned apple in a story stripped of supernatural artifice, but still feeling vaguely fantastical. Oddly enough, “Blancanieves” ends on a beautifully romantic, tragic note, maintaining the story’s ages-old hold on younger audiences, while also presenting a ghoulish conclusion that feels authentic and well-earned. The silent trappings seem like a gimmick when employed in 2013, but the story’s impact is never dulled. [B+]


This article is related to: Blancanieves, Review, Maribel Verdú


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates