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Blancanieves movie poster

Blancanieves Movie Review

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With Snow White And The Huntsmen and the abysmal Mirror Mirror, the past year has seen its fair share of Snow White projects.  By a mile the most unique offering to the category is Blancanieves, Spain's official entry into this year's Academy Awards.

If you thought The Artist had just a bit too much spoken dialogue, then Blancanieves is for you.  The film is fully silent, with the exception of music of course.  Beautifully shot in black and white and in the old 4:3 frame size, this version of Snow White makes the heroine, Carmen, the daughter of the country's most famous bullfighter.  After a bull accident in the ring leaves him nearly dead, the father is taken care of by his new wife, Encarna, the wicked Queen of the story, whose motives are dubious at best.  Confined to his wheelchair, the father knows little of his wife's cruel treatment of Carmen (she is locked and lives in the stables) even up to his 'accidental' death.  After an attempt on her life, Carmen flees her home and joins a band of traveling bullfighting dwarves.  She inadvertently becomes the chief attraction of the act, garnering national attention, which leaves her vulnerable once again to Encarna, who wants her dead.

Imaginative and whimsical, Blancanieves reminded me in some ways of Almodovar's Talk to Her in its bullfighting imagery, minus the vibrant colors.  Macarena Garcia, who plays Carmen, is mesmerizing in the role and brings the innocent yet fierce spirit that makes for the best kind of Snow White.  Maribel Verdu (Encarna) is also terrific and in many ways reminded me of a slightly more mature Berenice Bejo (from The Artist).  The dwarves also were successful, once again choosing real little people, but assembling a far better group than did the miserable Mirror Mirror (the Snow White & The Huntsmen dwarves, though, still take the cake).

Ironically, the film begins to struggle towards the midpoint and beyond when it feels too beholden to the Snow White story and its necessary components.  For instance, the dwarves, the poisoned apple and Carmen's eternal sleep all feel like elements the director (Pablo Berger) knew he needed to include, yet they take away from the core story he wanted to tell.  Blancanieves may have been even better off had it planted the initial seed of Snow White and then proceeded in a completely new and unexpected direction to distance itself from the famous tale as best it can.  Instead, I felt myself checking off the plot points which limited my ability to just enjoy a beautifully crafted film. 

Because of having to cram in all the familiar elements, the film feels long by 15 minutes or so.  The poignant but underwhelming ending seemed like a realization of the length issue - "well, we really want to do one more sequence, but we just don't have time."

Bottom-line: Blancanieves is the most creative but not necessarily the most entertaining take on the fairy tale from the past year (Carmen's peaceful sleep was looking pretty good by the end).  Unlike The Artist, where its silent approach directly correlates to the story and pays clever homage to that era, Blancanieves does not have that same necessity for silence, which is what holds it back from playing to a wider audience.  It makes it unique and bold, but also a bit more of a chore to watch.  It will be interesting to see if Pablo Berger, whose skill is evident, can or wants to transition to more commercial endeavors after this.    

Review by Some Other FilmJabber Guy

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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