Pablo Berger’s homage to silent, black –and -white film’s legendary history was the opening feature at the Palm Springs Film Festival in January. Referencing the Grimm Brothers historical fairy tale; flaying “Disneyesque” (1937), benign, whistling interpretation, Berger’s heroine is of stronger, tougher “stuff”; “Carmen” (“Snow White”) inherits from her father, a matador’s muleta.
Seville, Spain in the 1920’s harbors the setting of a bewitching story of envy, malignant evil, and retribution. Berger’s “Snow White” is a homage to vintage photography (Edward Steichen), archival, melodramatic Hollywood ( “Sunset Boulevard”, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”) and Erich von Stroheim’s “Greed” (1924). His monumental respect for the traditional, throbs at the heart of “Blancanieves”.
Actors, whose beauty is secondary to their performances (Maribel Verdu, Macarena Garcia, Sofia Oria, Pere Ponce) wordlessly convey the power and pathos of their characters. So intensely engrossing is the commencement of “Blancanieves”; musical score (Alfonso de Vilallonga) wrenchingly poignant, ethereal, luminous; the story, twisted creatively by the ingenuity and genius of Berger; for forty minutes, spirits levitating, encapsulated in wonder; loving every pivot in the bullring, tasting every shed tear, even the expected soared with glory, intelligence, innovation.
Disaster struck; mesmerizing wizardry, brutally hurled against a wall, greatness shrunk to the prosaic; ambition blinded potential; the story looses its potency, bullfights sink to boredom; dwarfs morph into the mundane and “Snow White/Carmen” meets a clouded, uncertain fate.
Sad, when a film hovers briefly on Mount Olympus, only to slip, slide, not into Hades, but into bland, pedestrian, neutrality.
TWO & 3/4 STARS!!