A band of bullfighting dwarfs save the life of a young woman with amnesia. They end up taking her under their wing when they find out that she has seemingly natural skills as a bullfighter, upon which they can capitalize not only for their act but for her own personal gain. As she does not know her name or background, the dwarfs coin her Blancanieves, after the famed fairy tale. What they are all unaware of is that she is really Carmen, the daughter of the once great matador, Antonio Villalta. On the day Carmen was born, her father suffered a career ending accident, and her mother died in childbirth. Her father quickly remarried his nurse, the evil Encarna. Although raised by her grandmother during her early years, Carmen, following the death of her grandmother, went to live with Encarna while an adolescent, Encarna who treated her as a slave. Carmen eventually found her disabled father, who was hidden away and treated poorly by Encarna. In the meantime, Encarna was cavorting with the...Written by
Silent, black and white, expressionist, virtuoso in his classically vintage mise en scene, "Blancanieves" is a triumph of real cinema and invention, folk culture and Iberian poetry, a post-modern masterpiece in which the aesthetic of silent cinema – with its quotes and its expressive forms, the single power of pictures and musical score – it's not only an end, as it has been for the contemporary and more exalted "The Artist" (in which retro style was justified by the homage to old Hollywood), but a mean, a perfect mean, to tell a story: the usual one, by Grimm's brothers tiredly taken to screens so many times in so different ways, but here completely twisted, tipped over, in a Gothic, Spanish and extravagant version where Snow White and seven dwarfs are toreros, the set is Seville between '10s and '20s, and the usual Disney fable hearts and flowers go to hell in benefit of a dark tonality, a black humor and a grotesque taste which unchains an unstoppable series of stylistic, comical, poetic inventions, unpredictable as sensational. Under the aegis of a deep patriotic identity, "Blancanieves" has the rhythm of a corrida, the passion of a flamenco, the blood of the arena, the twists of circus and the weight of jealousy, of love duel, which is heart and root of Spanish romanticism. It's a modern "Carmen" with Oedipus complex, tuned with "guitara" and castanets, and painted with the oldest cinema aesthetic, close-ups, gags, depth of field, lights and darks of great silent cinema, here in its maximal expression, without any self-satisfaction at all. It's not a divertissement, and not a simple homage, not a pastiche: it's like a film should be, simple, dry, moving, as cinema in its beginning. Cinephile mannerism of Pablo Berger doesn't make lose the film in a style exercise, but helps to tell a black fairy tale, out of time, revolutionary and anarchic, which couldn't be represented some way else. A bond of immediate emotion and narrative synthesis, which discovers in the arena a theater of all life sensation range: laugh, crying, show, anguish, childhood lightness and horrid adults' cruelty, the weight of past and memories, ghosts and returns, a little antique world in which good and evil, hate and love, jealousy and solidarity, clash and overturn in front of an enraptured, manipulated audience who asks for more, who wants to be thrilled, who gets touched, who has fun, and in the end asks grace for the bull. And, on the very last scene, cries for masterpiece!
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