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Snow White 2012 | 104 min | PG-13 | 1.37:1



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Theatrical release date

 15 March, 2013
 12 July, 2013

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Screenshots from Blancanieves Blu-ray

Blancanieves Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 14, 2013

Even with the monster success of “The Artist,” the 2011 French production that cleaned up at the box office and took home Oscar gold, it seemed unlikely that similar silent film endeavors would follow. The Spanish feature “Blancanieves” is proof that perhaps a renaissance of the lost cinematic art form is in order, returning directorial ingenuity and blissfully exaggerated performances to the screen. It’s a humorous, heartbreaking return to old moviegoing habits, using fairy tale inspiration to emphasize heroes and villains while retaining a bittersweet quality that keeps the effort earthbound, despite a sense of humor that tends to carry the picture away at times.

A champion matador, Antonio (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) is the toast of Spain, using his skills to defeat the toughest of opponents, while his beloved wife (Inma Cuesta) cheers him on. After suffering an accident, Antonio is left in the care of Encarna (Maribel Verdu), a wicked nurse with her eye on the fighter’s fortune. Losing his ability to walk and learning his spouse perished during childbirth, Antonio is left with baby Carmen (played by Sofia Oria as a child and Macarena Garcia as a teen) to care for. Duped into marrying Encarna, Antonio and Carmen are pushed aside so the new bride can enjoy her life of opulence, taking lovers and demanding fame while the little girl dreams of a better life, bonding with pet rooster Pepe. As the years pass, Carmen is soon pushed out the house, sent into the forest to be killed by Encarna’s enforcer. Surviving the hit, Carmen is rescued by a gang of six bull-fighting dwarfs, who welcome the sad girl into their lives, teaching her the ways of the sport, which she takes to almost instinctively, rising to countrywide fame -- a development that enrages Encarna.

It’s unfair to compare “The Artist” to “Blancanieves,” but it’s surprising to be confronted by two major international releases that seek to restore silent moviemaking techniques (in black-and-white) to the mainstream. Tonally, the pictures are worlds apart, as “Blancanieves” takes its inspiration from The Grimm Brothers’ “Snow White” story, with Carmen as the titular beauty, while Encarna assumes the wicked stepmother role. However, the effort doesn’t overly indulge whimsy, instead playing matters realistically, using the Spanish pastime of bullfighting as a major element of the screenplay, while taking special interest in several tragedies that motivate the characters into action. Writer/director Pablo Berger (“Torremolinos 73”) maintains a light touch that befits the enthusiastic approach, yet he generally shies away from fantasy, attempting to rework storybook elements into a melodrama, cleverly issuing familiar sights, such the debut of the poison apple, in askew ways, maintaining pace and consistency that mirrors old Hollywood magic.

Performances are wonderfully active and engaged, with Verdu a particular highlight as Encarna, developing from an opportunist to a queen, articulating the transformation with an amusing range of facial reactions to intensify the personality to standards of fairy tale wickedness. Garcia makes for a fine Snow White, blessed with an expressive posture that Berger exploits wonderfully, creating a lost girl and a bullfighting champion without leaving gaps in the characterization. The ensemble is superbly emotive and invested in the challenge of silent acting, while Berger assists with a few strange sights to keep up eccentricity, giving viewers a set of dwarfs that’s less about jolliness and more about cross-dressing, surliness, and puppy love. The director also shares joy with his influences, using tricks of the trade to communicate visually what dialogue would normally cover, while a few film influences (notably “Sunset Boulevard”) slip into view, sure to keep cineastes sufficiently tickled.

As with “The Artist,” “Blancanieves” is overlong, though there’s a little more narrative ground to cover when wrestling with “Snow White” particulars. The ending is perhaps the greatest deviation from the source material, aiming for a bittersweet quality to wind down the festivities. It’s an odd turn of events, but its poetic intentions register cleanly, closing the picture with an emotional calm to match the rest of the enchanting silence.

Starring: Maribel Verdú, Macarena García, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Emilio Gavira, Sofía Oria
Director: Pablo Berger

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