Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013

Snow White en Espanol

By David Luhrssen
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  The Oscar-winning success of The Artist may have been an anomaly in cinema history; the artful silent triumph hasn’t exactly opened the floodgates to non-talking pictures but a precedent was set. Perhaps The Artist encouraged Spanish director Pablo Berger to make a silent, black-and-white retelling of the Snow White fable, Blancanieves. The 2013 Best Picture winner at the Goyas, Spain’s answer to the Oscars, is out on Blu-ray and DVD and will be screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival.

Blancanieves transposes the Brothers Grimm fairytale to the age of silent movies, 1920s Spain, where motorcars shared the streets with horse carts and the Graf Zeppelin hovered overhead. The protagonist, Carmen (a.k.a. Snow White), entered life in the moment of her mother’s death from shock after watching her husband, the king of bullfighters, badly gored in the arena. Carmen’s father survives under the care of his nurse; we can tell she’s sinister from the cagy look in her eyes and the ominous music that trails her. Silent movies were never entirely silent—there was always music and Blancanieves’ soundtrack is fine-tuned to the story.

The sadistic nurse turns wicked stepmother when Carmen falls into her clutches. The woman is vain and spends time in front of a mirror, but whether the looking glass talks to her is anyone’s guess in a silent film. Eventually Carmen escapes and is rescued by a traveling circus of—you guessed it—seven dwarves.

Elegantly shot and edited, Blancanieves is an homage to the great movies of the 1920s. It sometimes exceeds its models. Berger makes use of better camera technology than was available to Erich von Stroheim, endowing the story with many perspectives and an easy, flowing pace. More importantly, the screenplay is both witty and evocative, elevated by performances that magnify life without crossing the line into melodrama.

Blancanieves will be screened at 7:45 p.m., Oct. 2 at the Downer Theatre; and 2 p.m., Oct. 4 and 1:30 p.m., Oct. 5 at the Fox-Bay Cinema.



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