L’Altra Italia hosts an ongoing monthly screening series of Italian films. This month, Matteo Garrone‘s fantasy ” Il Racconto dei Racconti” (Tale of Tales) was shown at Toronto’s TIFF Lightbox to a packed audience. The film, which competed for the prestigious Palm d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, stars Selma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones and John C. Reilly. It is a sumptuous adaptation of thefairy-tales by Giambattista Basile entitled Pentamerone which has the earliest versions of Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

The film is shot entirely in Italy, and the locations are simply magnificent.   There are three different stories interwoven.   “The Queen” features Salma Hayek and John C. Reilly as the Queen and King of Longtrellis. The Queen is unable to have a child and is determined to have one. When offered the opportunity to get pregnant, by eating the heart of a sea monster that’s been cooked by a virgin, the King and Queen proceed with it, even at the cost of a life. In the battle with the sea monster, the King is killed, and the Queen coldly eats the heart, only concerned with becoming pregnant. Both the virgin who cooked the heart and the Queen immediately become pregnant and give birth to look alike babies. The Queen becomes obsessed with her son Elias who has befriended his brother, Jonas. The Queen is angered by the relationship and is determined to keep them apart, no matter what, much to her eternal detriment.

The Flea,” with Toby Jones as the self-centred King of Highhills who fails to pay attention to his loving daughter, the Princess of Highhills. He becomes obsessed with a flea and makes it his beloved pet. The flea grows enormously and eventually dies. The King mourns the flea greatly. His daughter has a desire to be married to a handsome, brave man and leave the castle. The King sets up a challenge where the one man who can identify the source of the hide of the animal that is on display, will win his daughter as the bride. The only one who identifies it correctly (as it is the flea hide) is an abusive Ogre. The Princess is terrified and threatens suicide, but the King persuades who to leave with the Ogre as he must keep his word. The Princess goes away with the Ogre and suffers greatly. After finally escaping the Ogre the Princess returns home to the Kingdom with the proof of her courage. The King falls to his knees and sobs.

The Two Old Women” with Vincent Cassel as the lusty King of Strongcliff who pursues a mystery woman whose singing voice he has heard. He follows the voice to a cottage where the two elderly sisters live and is determined to have the woman as his. The sisters (Dora and Imma), are fearful and one of the sisters hatches a scheme to keep him intrigued. Dora pretends to be young and ultimately spends the night with the King, but in darkness. The King realizes that Dora is not young throws her out of the castle. A witch stumbles upon Dora in the forest and nurses her, turning her into a beautiful young woman. The King later finds Dora in the forest and is besotted by her, making her his Queen. Imma is hurt and alone now in their cottage and wants to live in the castle with her sister. The consequences for both sisters become grave.

Prior to the screening, there was a reception at Maison Mercer with catering provided by Fieramosca, Pizza Nova, and Nespresso.

L’Altra Italia, cofounded by Artistic Director Cristiano de Florentiis, started in 2002 and is dedicated to promoting Italian arts and culture and to events that bridge Italy and Canada.

 (photos by Allan Tong)

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