Recorded Picture Company


Matteo Garrone discusses 'Tale of Tales'

Vincent Cassel in  Tale of Tales  (2015).

Vincent Cassel in Tale of Tales (2015).


With flayings, pregnancies and marriages to ogres, ‘Tale of Tales’ is a very adult fairy story.


There are those who believe Matteo Garrone should be in Hollywood. In fact, the logic goes, the Italian director should have been there since 2008, when he released his film Gomorrah. After all, that movie was a triumph, a bloody symphonic epic about the Camorra organised crime syndicate of Naples. The acclaim was loud and instant. By the time the film was released in the US, it came “presented by” one of its keenest admirers, Martin Scorsese. There were endless offers to direct studio crime movies. Most were easily boiled down: Gomorrah in Boston, Gomorrah in Las Vegas. Garrone found himself able to resist.

Now, on a cool June afternoon, he sips black tea in London’s Soho Hotel. He was only briefly tempted to go, he says; he likes living in Rome too much. In his late forties, casually dressed, he speaks English with a strong Italian accent. “It’s like a friend said when I talked to him about Hollywood. ‘Why leave 30 friends to go and work with 200 enemies?’ ” he says, flashing a toothpaste-advert grin.

So instead of a Hollywood Gomorrah, he stayed in Italy and made Reality (2012), a comic satire of reality television. And now he has swerved in tone again, directing his first English-language film: Tale of Tales, a gorgeous and occasionally horrifying medley of three fairy tales originally written by the 17th-century Neapolitan courtier Giambattista Basile. The cast includes Salma Hayek as a selfish queen and Vincent Cassel and Toby Jones as kings of neighbouring states, the first priapic, the second an idiot.

There have been more obvious career-building strategies. “I like to work in a new genre,” he says. “And to betray a genre.” Garrone is still grinning — he rarely stops — but there is also a certain glint of obstinacy. “It is a right I will protect.”

Tom Grievson