Entertainment » Movies


by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Sep 3, 2013

In case "The Artist" didn't convince you of the power of silent film to enchant, or if you never saw "The Artist" (tut! tut!) a second masterpiece of latter-day silent flmmaking has arrived.

Director Pablo Berger's "Blancanieves" ("Snow White") retells the classic fable as the story of Carmencita (a precociously naturalistic and charming Sofía Oria), whose famous bullfighter father Antonio (Daniel Giménez Cacho) was felled by a wild, powerful beast (named Satan, no less) in Seville's arena. The shock of his goring sent Carmencita's mother into labor. Of the two, only Antonio, now paralyzed and unwilling to look upon his daughter, survived the day.

Scheming nurse Encarna (Maribel Verdú) has taken over Antonio's life and his estate. She's the archetypal wicked stepmother: Beautiful but cruel, she rules over Antonio's estate with iron claws, dominating even her lover, the chauffeur (Pere Ponce), with her sadistic caprices. When Carmencita's grandmother dies, the girl comes to live at the estate with Antonio (himself virtually a prisoner) and Encarna. Eventually, Carmencita grows up to become a beautiful and self-assured young woman (Macarena García).

Murderous plans abound, but father and daughter find a ray of hope in their newly forged connection. Seven dwarves do enter the picture, and a poisoned apple plays a role; this film plays as a highly stylized melodrama, and trades in the very stuff of fairy tales -- horror, danger, and doom, offset by flawless virtue. Though the movie was made using contemporary cinema technology, Berger -- true to his word, as he explains it in the special features -- has, together with cinematographer Kiko de la Rica, created a work that recalls and draws upon the sophisticated visual language of filmmaking from the silent era. "Blancanieves" is more than homage; it's a latter-day, and worthy, entrant into the canon of great silent movies.

This Cohen Media Group Blu-ray / DVD combo includes all the same extras on both the DVD and Blu-ray discs. These include a comprehensive "Making Of" featurette, which details every aspect of the production (costuming, makeup, hair, production design -- all of which had to be tweaked to accommodate shooting in black and white), as well as a "Director's Presentation," basically an ad for the film, in which Berger offers a precis of the work. ("Imagine if watching a film was a different experience, a fusion of images and music, a hypnotic, sensual experience." The Berger's speech is reproduced in a booklet, included in the package.)

There's also a "Preparing the Shoot" featurette (it's not actually about the pre-production process -- that's covered in the "Making Of" -- but rather a record of the first day of filming.) The extras are rounded out by a clip showing the film's premiere.

In addition to the Blu-ray and DVD discs and a booklet, the package also contains a code that can be redeemed online to download the soundtrack, by composer Alfonso de Villalonga.

Blu-ray and DVD Combo

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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