While the summer season is typically rife with big budget blockbusters, there is also a healthy mix of counter programming to entertain all audiences. Opening today exclusively at the Varsity cinemas is “Blancanieves”, a sumptuous and somewhat irreverent take on the classic Snow White tale set in the 1920’s against the world of bullfighting.
A twist on the original Snow White tale, we get a story where once upon a time there was a little girl who had never known her mother. She learned the art of her father, a famous bullfighter, but was hated by her evil stepmother. One day she ran away with a troupe of dwarves, and became a legend.
With his first feature in almost ten years, writer/director Pablo Berger returns with a visually delightful and rich retelling of a classic fable. He walks through the mythology of the story in a methodical and deliberate way that makes for a bold rediscovery and reimagination of the genre of silent film. Very much a dark witted and perversely sensual retelling of the story, with some stunning photography and a flat out brilliant musical score we get dropped into a world of Snow White that is dark, moody and even a little bit sexual as he navigates the audience through the story. With all the tools at his disposal, and through the use of black and white photography, we not only get wrapped up in the story but it drips over us as not necessarily reinvents the art form of silent film, but enhances it. While there are admittedly moments that are a little self indulgent, the film drips through the screen and on the audience as this world seeps into our skin slowly but surely giving us a heroine in Snow White that puts Kirsten Stewart in last year’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” to shame and if anything it’s not the performances by all the actresses who play the iconic character throughout the years but the other players around her that make this film work so very well.
Audiences will undoubtedly recognize actress Maribel Verdu as the evil stepmother who is best recognized from Y Tu Mama Tambien and Pan’s Labyrinth. She brings a confusing and wicked sexuality to the role while Daniel Gimenez Cacho as her long suffering father and former bullfighter plays the role to near perfection. Not allot of other familiar faces to audiences to grab on to, but it is not that kind of film. This is just a sweeping melodrama that is structured to envelope the audience and get swept along for the ride.
The balance between substance and gloss is one that is being fought every minute during “Blancanieves” but substance does ultimately win out as writer/director Berger takes this story to some new places that haven’t been thought to explore before.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Blancanieves” is now playing exclusively at the Varsity Cinemas here in down town Toronto, check with listings for show times.
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