May 6, 2013 at 11:37 am | Posted in 2013 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

This absolutely lavish film is my favorite of the year so far.  Set in and around Seville, Spain, it retells the Snow White story through the lens of a 1920s bullfighting family.  True to the period, the film is shot in black and white and is silent.  Now I use silent loosely because it does have all sorts of sounds (footsteps, hands clapping, horns blowing) but no words are spoken and all dialogue is shown on the screen in silent-film style.  In addition, much of the acting is done with the exaggerated facial expressions and mouth movements of classic silent films.  That might sound like a trial but it isn’t.   What we have is a lush world captured beautifully in black and white; cinematographer Kiko de la Rica uses light and shadows to stunning effect, creating depth and mood and radiating light in a way that color films cannot.  In addition, the musical score (written for the film by Alfonso de Vilallonga) is at times energetic, angry, deeply mournful or funny.  It’s beautiful and perfectly matched to each scene.  One might legitimately question the point of retelling Snow White, which is after all not the most  emotionally complex of stories.  However, I was surprised at the range of emotions that were so deeply expressed, especially in a silent film.  It was genuinely funny, sometimes sinister and deeply sad in parts.  “Blancanieves” ultimately did what I ask of any film, it drew me in and took me on a journey that was at times silly, at times haunting and always beautiful.


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