‘Blancanieves’ enchants the Varsity Cinema this week
Starting an exclusive engagement at the Varsity cinemas in Toronto this weekend from D Films is the captivating black and white Spanish film that won over audiences at TIFF last September, Blancanieves. Spain’s official submission to the 85th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film, Blancanieves is a gorgeous homage to the Golden Age of Europe’s silent cinema. Coming on the heels of 2011’s Oscar winner “The Artist”, Blancanieves had its work cut out for it being another silent film homage trying to establish its own path.
Starring: Maribel Verdú, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Ángela Molina, Pere Ponce, Macarena García and Sofía Oria
Written and Directed by Pablo Berger
Once upon a time there was a little girl who had never known her mother. She grew up in the care of her grandmother until she was a young lady. But after tragedy strikes again she is whisked away to live with her father and treacherous stepmother. After she learns the art of bullfighting from her famous matador father, she is forced ran away with a troupe of dwarves, and becomes a legend. This tribute to silent films is set in southern Spain in the 1920s.
Blancanieves succeeds in almost every way imaginable, easily besting the much hyped “The Artist” as homage to silent films and a film of its own right. Berger’s script is simple on the surface, yet layered with sub context and devilishly playful tone throughout. The role of evil stepmother is taken on with aplomb here by Verdú; you can literally see her licking her lips at the opportunity to sink her teeth into such a meaty role. Her Encarna is a villain in the highest sense of the word and a female throwback to the black hooded, moustache twirling antagonists that dominated the film of the early 20th century. Berger smartly veils Encarna behind half closed door and an actual veil through good chunks of the film which belies her devious and malicious plans. Ultimately Encarna meets her end the way her husband would have preferred his own fate go.
The rest of the cast is spot on as well, with Giménez Cacho playing the father as a despicable oaf with a broken heart who changes upon seeing his daughter as a young woman many years later. And the 2 actresses who comprise the character or Carmancita/Blancanieves as both a girl (Oria) and the later young woman (Garica) both do exceptional work as the pain that the young Carmancita must endure, as well as the joy, is played out brilliantly in young Oria’s facial expression. Garcia manages to retain and transfer the look of youthful joy and innocence in the eyes of the older Carmencita, under the stage name Blancanieves, as she feels at home in the bullfighting ring her father so loved.
The black and white looks gorgeous and the set design is exquisite as we travel from the poor surrounding of Carmencita’s grandmother’s house and the community that gather for her confirmation, to the lavish and extravagant surrounding of her father’s estate, completely under the thumb and rule of Encarna. The third act upon the rickety cart of the traveling dwarf matadors she teams up with is a simple a premise and execution as the film can get, yet it’s that simplicity that also lends a more authentic feel to the entire act and gets the closest to directly placing the film in the 20’s itself.
The film is not without its issues, there are moments of introspection and story building that are a little drawn out and long winded and the ending plays out more like the slow hissing of a balloon loosing air until its underwhelming conclusion. But the parts that work best in the film succeed immensely and the film contains an easy re-watch factor as this is bound to become a bit of a cult classic.
4 out of 5
Till Next Time
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- Blancanieves (rogerebert.com)
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