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(Brothers Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo’s Bad Tales (translated from Favolacce) opens tomorrow, June 4th, in theaters and virtual cinemas. Then on all digital platforms June 11. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not give just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)

Bad Tales (translated from the Italian title Favolacce) is a beautifully shot, feel-bad film attuned to the wavelengths of nihilist auteurs such as Michael Haneke, Michel Franco, and Lynne Ramsey. Brothers Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo’s film is a slow burn psychological thriller set in the gorgeous Italian countryside that details the collapse of a community’s sanity. Bad Tales is a stark reminder, even amidst the natural beauty of this world, that our grip on reality can take a twisted turn at any moment at the hands of faltering minds and personal tragedy.

The film relates the story of spiritually exhausted families exasperating in the sweltering heat of the countryside. Their tales, introduced by a transparent and unreliable narrator, are each dreadful and horrible in ways both similar and dissimilar to each other. The families are broken, the children are neglected, a deep brooding sense of sexual angst poisons the minds of all. Every character in this dark tale is on the verge of tearing from the pages of reality. The parents are looking to escape their lives while the children attempt to cope. Until, finally one day, the children beat their parents to the punch. Without spoiling the ending, it’s safe to say they escape.

The formal aspects of Bad Tales are in contrast to the narrative’s ugliness. This film’s cinematography, by Paolo Carnera, is sweeping and tinted with a beautiful green lit summer glow. The camera moves effortlessly through this tinted world, capturing the restlessness of its characters. The soundtrack racks up tension with animal noises, string arrangements and beautiful compositions slowly sliding into dissonance. The acting is efficient, intense and convincing, especially when the narrative blackens – scenes of child abuse are particularly sensitive and heartbreaking. 

Bad Tales dares to balance taboo subject matter and an ominous tone with pristine aesthetics, and for the most part it works. It isn’t afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve. It pulls from the masters of nihilistic cinema but also takes those formal and narrative influences and adds its own hypnotic spin. The D’Innocenzo brothers have made a piece of cinema that can be hard to watch, but its daring execution will keep your attention even when you’d rather look away. 

–Sammy Levine (@thesammylevine)

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