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Friday, 26 July 2013

Why you need to watch Spanish Snow White movie "Blancanieves" AT ONCE.

Blancanieves came out in 2012, but I figured that if I'd managed to miss it first time round, some of you guys might too. And you should definitely be watching this movie, because it's fantastic. Last year saw two major Snow White blockbusters come and go, and neither of them were good. I was obsessed with the badass-looking Snow White and the Huntsman until I actually saw it, and the reviews for Mirror Mirror were so bad that I didn't even bother -- despite the fact that the costumes were by Eiko Ishioka, one of the most talented designers in cinema history. Blancanieves, however, is perfect.
I confess, this post isn't for purely altruistic reasons: I want everyone to go and see this movie so I can get someone to write fanfiction about it. Because seriously, it's a black-and-white silent film about matadors. This is not going to get a vast quantity of traction online, outside of the Yuletide festival for obscure fanfic. So I need you to a) watch Blancanieves, b) fall in love with Blancanieves like I did, and c) nominate it as a Yuletide fandom this Christmas, so we can all share the love. OK?
Blancanieves is far, far better than the vast majority of supposedly "fairytale" movies I've seen in recent years, keeping the basic elements of the Snow White story but changing the setting to 1920s Spain. Snow White's mother dies in childbirth, leaving her father, a paralysed former bullfighter, alone with a predatory nurse -- the inevitable Evil Stepmother. But rather than growing up to be a flamenco dancer like her mother and grandmother, Snow White becomes a bullfighter. A bullfighter.
To someone who hadn't so much as watched the trailer, this development was beautifully unexpected. There is no "women can't be bullfighters!" journey, or really any of the kind of girl power tribulations one usually has to go through when a woman wants to do anything in Historical Times. Obviously in most films, the girl power tribulations are necessary and provide realistic conflict, but the fairytale nature of Blancanieves meant they could just get on with it. Sometimes, little girls are forced to live in the coal cellar by their evil, beautiful stepmothers. And sometimes they grow up to tour Spain in a caravan with a troupe of bullfighting dwarves. (N.B. The bullfighting stuff is not gory. I'm vegetarian and am very aware that bullfighting is The Worst, but in the context of this movie it was fine.)
There is no prince in Blancanieves, and I can't tell you how happy that made me. I love fairytales, and I love romance... but somehow, 90% of the movies that combine those two things end up being kind of a yawnfest, because they just recycle terrible old gender-rolesy tropes. Anyhow, Blancanieves is very obviously Snow White's story, and while it's thoroughly romantic, it isn't a Boy Meets Girl story. That being said, she does have a love interest: He's one of the dwarves. (See my previous points re: fanfic. I NEED SOMEONE TO WRITE ABOUT THIS. It's a very sweet love story.) Instead, much of the movie focuses on Snow White's relationships with her family: first her blood relatives, and then the dwarves.
This movie won about a gazillion awards, and rightfully so. Not only was it gorgeous, but it managed to tell a story about European circus(ish) performers in the 1920s without ending up as a Moulin Rouge-style pastiche. And the costumes were gorgeous. Honestly, this is the perfect story for black and white because so many fairytale good/evil tropes are already coded into the visuals. The evil stepmother is sumptuously gothic, combining the black of mourning with vampiric sexuality, while Snow White's pale skin and black hair are literally written into the story already. There's a beautiful moment when the young Snow White's brand new confirmation dress is dunked into a vat of black dye, readying her for a life of wearing black and living in her stepmother's coal cellar.
So, just to recap: Why you need to watch Blancanieves:
  • It somehow manages to be Bechdel-compliant without technically including a single line of dialogue.
  • A short-haired, bullfighting Snow White. 
  • A lovely and unconventional romance.
  • It's an old-school fairytale that combines creepiness with a simple, emotional storyline.
  • Beautiful, intricate 1920s Spanish costumes.
Postscript: I yearn for a matador suit. Yearn.

12 comments:

  1. Message received. This sounds AMAZING.

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  2. I saw this at the Sydney Film Festival. It was so much more amazing than I thought it would be.

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  3. Hannah Elspeth27 July 2013 at 08:53

    Sounds awesome! The Region 2 Collector's Edition comes out soon at a good price, so I shall get it.
    Um. I actually really enjoyed Mirror, Mirror? (I watched both.) It was fabulously campy but reminded me a bit of something from The Slipper and the Rose/Ever After tradition. The clothes and sets were gorgeous, but also all the dwarves had distinct personalities and were actually little people (one definite area in which Snow White and the Huntsman was a let down). Plus, Snow White learns to fight and defend the poor, has a very fun relationship with the prince, and a sense of humour!
    I truly, truly recommend it. It was such a surprise to me and I feel that it was very badly marketed. It makes a very nice flipside to Snow White and the Huntsman - they are very palpably different, but not inferior to each other.

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  4. I've trusted your judgement implicitly ever since you steered me towards 'Hannibal', and this was no different - except somehow, I forgot that all foreign films must always be THE MOST SAD EVER. Still crying ;_;

    (But also, amazing. Thank you)

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  5. S.I. Rosenbaum30 July 2013 at 08:44

    WHY DID YOU NOT TELL ME ALSO THAT THE ENDING WAS DISTURBING AS FUCK

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  6. Why did you recommend this to me because this film ruined me haha. Beautiful camera work along with the costumes and fantastic actors. I also need fic of Snow White and her suitor like burning askdjf. Maybe you could write some if you like writing fanfics? I mean the way that he looked at her was just so loving and gentle and I just need more of those two.



    Even though I wanted a happy ending I appreciate that they went with a darker more gothic one. Possibly the single tear from Snow White was supposed to have meant that she was only in a deep coma? Anyway, fantastic recommendation and would love to hear your interpretation of the ending.

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  7. Spoiled. :/

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  8. damn, I missed this when it played at our film society... looks fantastic

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  9. I'm sorry for giving bad news, but, do you know they killed real bulls during the filming? A real big shame. Here in Spain it was a scandal...

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  10. They did not kill any bulls during the filming. Anti-bullfighting activists have claimed that the bulls used in filming were killed afterwards as a consequence of their use in the movie, since they could no longer be used for bullfights (implies that they otherwise would have been killed in non-film-related bullfights). http://www.cas-international.org/en/news/newsitem/persbericht/protest-against-blancanieves-on-film-festival-rotterdam

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  11. Jesus Christ I watched this earlier and absolutely fell in love with it! I agree it needs fanfic. I might write some but it would be brilliant if some other people did too

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