Film festival review: Blancanieves

Last updated 05:00 28/07/2013


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Did you know, when you go to a fancy foreign film, and you see the word 'fin' at the end, that's kind of a pun?

Etymologically, the words 'finish' and 'fine' come from the same Latin root, 'finis'. So when a film ends with 'fin,' it is telling you both that it is finished, and (subtly) that it is high art. An arrogant word to choose, non?

Blancanieves 'art' is to take the story of Snow White, turn it into a silent film, and add bullfighting. This is not an obvious combination of elements to me. It's almost like the filmmaker played a version of creative Cluedo. Instead of Professor Plum in the library with a candlestick, it's Cinderella as a gangster flick, with Morris dancing.

Strangely, though, Blancanieves is not entirely ridiculous. It's pretty to look at, and it brings a wry sense of humour to its Grimm retelling (look out for the evil stepmother's erotic games in particular).

It also plays with the very notion of the fairytale. Without spoiling anything, this Snow White is no helpless damsel, and she won't be rescued by a strapping young prince. It might be a stretch to call this a feminist revision, but it's certainly a more original modernisation of the Snow White story than we've seen from Hollywood in recent years.

The film's pretensions are, however, distracting. The choice to imitate silent film seems a little tired now, post-The Artist, and in fact The Artist did it much better. At least there, the story was related to the style.

Here, the only apparent justification for shooting in silent style (complete with hammy acting, obvious exposition, and exaggerated characterisation) is that the story is set in the 1920s. It's an unnecessary and gimmicky choice.

There is enough here to keep a culture buff interested, but probably not moved or inspired. You'll get to play 'spot the Hemingway reference' and if that's enough to engage you, then go for gold. But Blancanieves never feels like more than a solid B.

Personally, I was ready to see the word 'fin' about half an hour before it actually appeared.

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