With hues of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Canterbury Tales as well as the carnivalesque absurdity of Federico Fellini, Matteo Garrone’s Tale Of Tales is a sideways Renaissance fairy tale — bawdy, ornate, hysterical and visceral. “He’s a painter, he’s very pictorial,” says Vincent Cassel, who was drawn to play a promiscuous royal in the film as it allowed him to “make fun” of the sexual archetypes he’s played. Tale of Tales marks the director’s third time on the Croisette (following Grand Jury Prize wins for his 2012 pic Reality and 2008’s gritty mob pic Gomorra) and new film couldn’t be more different tonally from those titles.
What sets Tale of Tales apart from other adult fairy tale pics like The Brothers Grimm and Pan’s Labyrinth “is that it’s seen from the point of view of women,” says Salma Hayek, who was cast by Garrone to play a barren Boticelli-like queen in 17th-century Italy. For the queen to get pregnant, a soothsayer advises that she feast on sea lizard’s heart, which her husband, the King (John C. Reilly), fiercely secures. The photo of Hayek’s queen hunched over the dinner table, gobbling down a huge lizard heart has became the unofficial icon for the film in its days since playing here at Cannes. Watch our DeadlineNow Rough Cuts interviews with Hayek and Cassel.