Snow White gets a fresh spin in "Blancanieves," Spanish writer-director Pablo Berger's trippy homage to '20s silent films.
The story begins with tragedy when famed bullfighter Antonio Villaita (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is paralyzed in the ring at the same time his wife, Carmen (Inma Cuesta), dies during childbirth. Their daughter, Carmencita (Sofía Oria), is raised by her grandmother (Ángela Molina), while Antonio marries his nurse, Encarna (Maribel Verdú).
Encarna treats Carmencita as a virtual slave when the girl moves into her father's mansion, and tries to have her killed when she's an adult (played by Macarena Garcia). Carmencita is rescued by a troupe of comic bullfighting dwarves, and even though she has amnesia she discovers she has inherited her father's skills.
Shooting in crisp black-and-white and with sparse dialogue (on title cards), Berger creates gorgeous scenes that evoke not only the silent era but early '30s horror (including a reference to Tod Browning's "Freaks" that's oddly endearing).
Berger turns the sexy Verdú ("Y tu mamá también") into a crafty evil stepmother and finds a perfect ingenue in García making her feature debut. He also injects a tender strain of melancholy through the film as he reclaims the Brothers Grimm from the Disney fairy-tale formula.
Opens Friday, May 31, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some violent content and sexuality; 100 minutes.