Thursday, January 31, 2013

Movie with Abe: Blancanieves

Directed by Pablo Berger
Released January 25, 2013

In 2011, “The Artist” reinvigorated the silent film genre by being a major hit and winning the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s exciting to see that the format can be used to make other terrific films, including this interpretation of Snow White, set in 1920s Spain, with the classic character cast as the daughter of a famous bullfighter whose wife’s death during childbirth led to a greedy nurse stealing him away from his daughter. Spain’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar is a fully engaging, marvelously stylized riff on a familiar story, using the majesty of bullfighting to add an effective twist and the power of black and white film and no sound to add melodrama.

The film spends its first half recounting Carmencita’s horrific childhood, in which, among other things, her evil stepmother Encarna cooked and fed her the chicken she so loved after catching her sneaking around, and then launches into Carmencita’s energetic return to the sport her father so adored. In a time filled with Snow Whites, this version is driven most by the contradiction of the love she earned from her father and the abuse she received from her stepmother to succeed, and she is an endearing character whose journey towards triumphant glory is endearing.

Actress Sofia Oria, who plays Carmencita, is a new face both to Spanish and American audiences, and she draws out the spirit of her character’s struggle ably and compellingly. Maribel Verdu, who had the opportunity to play the heroic rebel Mercedes in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” is superb as Encarna, emoting strongly with her eyes and with her face and delivering a fiercely villainous turn. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, who bears a passing resemblance to Jean Dujardin, hands in a strong performance as the film’s initial hero and later its tragic figure, confined to a chair and to the precious moments he gets to spend with his daughter.

It would be easy to think that, after so many adaptations over the years, including two films and one television show just this past year, there would be nothing new to find within the Snow White mythology. Yet this film does just that, fleshing out a new vision of the story in an entirely creative setting. The film is gorgeous, its costumes are excellent, and its music perfectly suited for its events. Most of all, it demonstrates that it is possible to make a 100-minute silent film that, in 2013, can remain interesting throughout its entire run.


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