Blancanieves (2013) Cohen Media Group
1 hr. 45 mins.
Starring: Marcarena Garcia, Maribel Verdu, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Angela Molina, Sofia Oria, Pere Ponce
Directed by: Pablo Berger
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Critic’s rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)
Recently, Hollywood has had a fascination with the classic fairy tale Snow White by ushering out showy big screen depictions of the treasured children’s fable. Among the examples of Snow White’s cinematic retelling includes 2012’s ambitiously dark Snow White and the Huntsman and the flat and flimsy Mirror Mirror from that same year. Even television has jumped into the Snow White sweepstakes with the ABC network’s Once Upon a Time.
Creatively, Spanish writer-director Pablo Berger conceives a stunning, retro-interpretation of the bedtime heroine in the lavish black-and-white silent production of Blancanieves. Elegant and sensually polished, Blancanieves is Berger’s challenging take on the popular pretty princess and her exploits with evil stepmothers, poisoned apples and last but certainly not least…her signature association with dutiful dwarfs. Imaginative and soulful, Blancanieves showcases a vintage offering (shot in the old-fashioned spirit of the Academy Award-winning “The Artist”) gives this narrative a refreshing, original artsy spin. Sure, Berger’s contemplative exposition is a sophisticated stunt of sorts but it works within the framework of the film’s flamboyance.
Berger’s idealistic vision on Snow White is not what one would call radical but it is nevertheless impishly unique and invigorating. In this case, she is Carmen (Macarena Garcia) daughter of a dynamic bullfighter in the setting of Seville circa 1920. The fact that she comes from bullfighting royalty and a flamenco dancing background adds the injected spice of exquisiteness. Soon, Carmen will join up with a group of bullfighting dwarfs and find her bloodline niche.
First, we experience Carmen’s sordid upbringing as a little girl (Sophia Oria) whose burdened existence is complicated by her withdrawn crippled matador father (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) and her treacherous nurse stepmother Encarna (Maribel Verdu, “Y Tu Mama Tambien”). Poor Carmen entered the world in dubious fashion as her natural mother died during childbirth. Anyhow, it does not take long for antagonistic Encarna to assign little Carmen menial tasks and treat her with utter disdain.
As Carmen grows into a ravishing young woman, her radiant looks proves to be too costly for her. With a growing jealously and resentment in her wicked stepmother Encarna (not to mention harassing advances from one of Encarna’s henchmen), Carmen escapes her dysfunctional home only to meet up with a caravan of dwarves running a bullfighting operation. The rescued, amnesia-stricken Carmen is now rechristened Blancanieves. She enters the bullfighting ring and becomes a superstar in her own right as she echoes the brilliant theatrics that her paralyzed father once demonstrated as a master matador many years before her birth.
Blancanieves’s rising fame and noted independence catches on to the dastardly evil Queen Encarna who has a long-running score to settle with her heralded missing stepdaughter. No doubt that Blancanieves requires the resiliency she can muster to survive the clutches of her over-bearing and opportunistic stepmother who has long since moved on to bigger and better things in the aftermath of her dismissive father’s demise.
Blancanieves is a welcomed deviation from the conventional follow-the-dots tale of the Snow White legend in comparison to the usual standby layers of big-budgeted sprinkled CGI fireworks effects. Berger’s dynamic dialogue-free black-and-white gem radiates courtesy of the crisp montages, gloriously animated choreography, cagey close-ups and cinematographer Kiko de la Rica’s eye-popping visual landscape. Also, Alfonso de Vilallonga’s soothing musical score breathes some energetic stimulation into the film’s hypnotic aura.
Here is hoping that the silent film genre catches fire as it is an enthralling throwback to a noteworthy style of filmmaking long forgotten and buried in the past of traditional movie-making practices. If anything the aforementioned 2011’s The Artist proved that the silent treatment can be a rewarding experience at the modern-day box office worthy of Academy Award-winning recognition. Blancanieves may not draw any prestigious movie industry prizes on the spot but it is a nourishing escapist picture that dares to share in the realm of the silent movie nostalgia scene with innovative poignancy, praise and passion.
Blancanieves may not have a Prince Charming in this crafty no-talkie edition but if it did no doubt that he would be magnetic mime in the making courtesy of this colorless glossy Grimm Brothers’-induced spectacle.