Directed by Pablo Berger
Blancanieves occupies a thorny bramble of cinephilia (inevitably, the film has been compared to The Artist) as a monochromatic love letter to the silent film that’s less interested in recreating its style and technique than indulging modern viewers’ stereotypes thereof. But Pablo Berger’s new film is no quickie: if you can sign onto this venture with that fully in mind, what remains is a gorgeously performed lullaby in pastiche, neither condescending to nor flattering its audience. In his casting—particularly lead child actress Sofias Oria—Berger reckons correctly that sentimentalism can, as a deliberate language, work wonders. Breezing along with a generosity of gags and ideas, the film retells the story of Snow White in early 20th-century Spain, here the daughter of a fallen matador whose mother—a flamenco dancer—died in childbirth.
As the old bullfighter lapses into despair and self-parody, his former nurse and new wife banishes Carmen to a servant’s life; her best friend is a rooster. Berger sniffs out the seeds of authoritarianism with a constant eye towards the child’s sense of the macabre, allowing for quick plunges into darkness before bouncing back with a disproportionately light touch. Nearly murdered by one of her stepmother’s revolving door of military suitors, Carmen is found with amnesia by a team of matadors who, of course, teach her to how to fight bulls and unlock the destiny her father granted her just before his death. In keeping with the original psychosexual roller coaster of “los hermanos Grimm”, it works—the film is like a German Expressionist fable co-directed by Bob Clampett , proving that a picture can be light and heavy at the same time.
Opens March 29