Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 18-May-2016

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Interviews-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 133:30
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Matteo Garrone

Madman Entertainment
Starring Salma Hayek
Vincent Cassel
Toby Jones
Bebe Cave
Stacey Martin
Jonah Lees
Christian Lees
Shirley Henderson
Hayley Carmichael
George C. Reilly
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Alexandre Desplat

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Italian director Matteo Garrone came to the notice of most critics with the violent crime drama Gomorrah in 2008. Tale of Tales is a very different beast, a lush, English language film featuring three slightly interconnected fairy tales loosely based on the stories of Giambattista Basile who wrote in Naples in the 17th century. Like many good fairy stories, these are about desire and obsession and don’t necessarily come out as the participants intended.

     A Queen (Salma Hayek) is desperate to have a child. A Necromancer offers her a solution; if she eats the heart of a sea monster cooked by a virgin, she will become pregnant immediately. The King (George C. Reilly) hunts and kills a sea monster but dies in the attempt. The still beating heart is cooked by a virgin and eaten by the Queen who immediately becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son the next day. But the virgin who cooked the heart also gives birth to a son. Sixteen years later the two boys Elias and Jonah (Christian and Jonah Lees) are identical, and inseparable. The Queen forbids her son Elias to see his “twin” and forces Jonah to leave the city but some bonds should not be broken.

     A debauched and licentious king (Vincent Cassel) leaving an orgy hears a beautiful voice singing in the street. He thinks it belongs to a young girl and, deep with lust, sends presents to the house into which the girl disappeared. However the house belongs to two aged and ugly sisters, Imma (Shirley Henderson) and Dora (Hayley Carmichael). When the King comes to the door, they are unable to admit him or to tell the truth. Instead, Dora visits the King’s bed on the promise of total darkness, but when he reneges on his promise and brings a light into the bedroom Dora is thrown from the castle window. But she survives and is turned by a witch into a beautiful woman (now played by Stacey Martin) who captivates the King when he sees her and offers marriage. But how lasting is the transformation?

     Another King (Toby Jones) loves his daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) but is reluctant to allow her to get married. He sets an almost impossible test for anyone who wishes to win her hand, but when the test is passed by a monstrous and ugly ogre the King has no choice but to let her go. Violet is taken to the ogre’s spartan and cold cave in the mountains where her attempts to escape cause the deaths of others. But Violet, being a resourceful princess, has a trick or two up her sleeve.

     These three stories are jumbled together and like most anthologies there is a let-down in tension and storytelling because just as you are getting involved in one story, it switches to another, and you need to get into the film again. However, what Tale of Tales has going for it are stunningly beautiful visuals, a magical score and a stellar cast. Shot in widescreen by DP Peter Suschitzky, each frame of Tale of Tales could be taken from a medieval painting. The costumes are colourful and detailed, the various castles, woods and canyons are breathtaking while the monsters have been created via animatronics rather than CGI, so have a depth that feels more solid. The score by Alexandre Desplat, who has been nominated 8 times for Oscars and won for The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), is alternatively epic or wistful, using in places voice, cello or flute, or sounding as if it emanated from a music box. The experienced cast seem to be having a good time, with Vincent Cassel (the French actor with 72 credits listed in the IMDb including Public Enemy #1 (2008), for which he won a best actor Cesar, and the powerful La Haine), Salma Hayek and Toby Jones the pick, although Bebe Cave as the feisty princess is also good value.

     If you like colourful tales with a fantasy element and beautiful visuals, Tale of Tales could be just the thing.

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Transfer Quality


     Tale of Tales is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Tale of Tales is rich, lush and beautiful, with the sets having a stunning depth and detail. The print does them full justice. The colours of the costumes, especially some yellow and red, show out against white rooms or stone corridors, while the green forests, the grey of the cliffs, the blue of the water or sky is vibrant. Skin tones are often unnatural, deliberately so, blacks and shadow detail pristine, contrast and brightness consistent.

     Other than in one place where the print did not quite cope with a flickering torch against a stone wall, artefacts were absent.

     No subtitles are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Feature audio is English DTS-HD MA 5.1.

     The sound design of the film is more subtle than bombastic, which works well. Dialogue is always clear and centred. The surrounds are utilised for the cries of the sea monster, carriage wheels, and crowds and in the quieter moments for dripping water or the rustle of the wind. However, a highlight of the audio was another beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat which is magical and nicely realised in the mix. The sub-woofer added appropriate bass to the music, sea monster cries and the wheels.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     Short cast interviews. The interviewees talk about the stories, acting techniques, influences and the director and there is some film and on-set footage included also. The interviewees are:

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

Madman Propaganda (9:24)

     Trailers for Beauty and the Beast, 99 Homes, Mississippi Grind and Partisan.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region A and Region B UK Blu-rays of Tale of Tales are not due to be released until 6 September and 8 August 2016 respectively. There is currently a Region B Italian Blu-ray which apparently includes a behind the scenes and a making of, but I cannot discover any other details. For now, buy local.


     Stunningly beautiful visuals, a magical score and a stellar cast help to paper over some of the unevenness of the three fairy tales which make up Tale of Tales. And it is hard not to enjoy a film that includes sea monsters, a giant flea, an ogre, circus performers, witches, necromancers, castles, forests and a hag who transforms into a woman.

     The video is beautiful, the audio very good. The extras are minor.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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