With an unusual distich, the duo Alessio Rigo de Righi – Matteo Zoppis presented themselves in Cannes, a tandem that has so far shot documentaries, and “Re Grancho” or “The Tale of King Crab” is the first feature film they shot. From beginning to end, this adventure drama, which takes place at the end of the 19th century, first in a village in the Italian region of Abruzzo, and then in the extreme south of South America, i.e. on Tierra del Fuego, seems completely strange, subversive. Naturalistic, yet somehow mystical, hypnotic, magical, and here the almost pastoral style of the Taviani brothers seems to merge with the mysticism of Werner Herzeg.
As the name of the film says – here we really follow the story. Thus, in the opening scene, we see several old Italians who gather with wine and spaghetti and start telling folk tales that they have heard from their grandparents. And these are the stories that obviously have multiple versions, with each new telling, something new was added, something was thrown out, enhanced or mitigated, so that the story about the village drunkard Lucian (Gabriele Silli) really seems like a story told to us by our grandmothers and grandfathers. We meet Lucian as a silent middle-aged guy with a thick long messy beard. He is the son of a local doctor who constantly gets him out of trouble, and we follow two episodes from his life.
Luciano is furious with the local nobleman who locked the gate so that the village shepherds can no longer pass, and even more furious because he is in love with the shepherd’s daughter Emma (Maria Alexandra Lungu), but she is promised to another. In the second part of the film, we will find Lucian in an even more phantasmagorical, mystical story in the far south of South America, pretending to be a Spanish priest, and carrying a crab in a coffin that should lead him to hidden gold. Although I needed a better link between the two stories for a higher rating, both segments stand out not only for their extraordinary locations and scenography, but also for their exceptional photography, first of the Italian countryside, then of the Patagonian wilderness.
“Re Granchio” is not one of those classic dark fairy tales for adults that have been filmed in recent years (for example Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” or Garrone’s “The Story of Stories” come to mind), but almost like some dark, hermetic episode that as if it had fallen out of Borges’s “General History of Abomination”. The environment in both segments is naturalistic, rustic, but again it is clear to us that it cannot be a classic historical story, but it could really be one of those traditions from folk culture that may or may not have happened. The main character was played by the Italian artist and painter Gabriele Silli, a friend of both directors, for whom this was his first film role. And indeed, he has something dark in his appearance, he seems like a tortured guy who has had enough of everything and who could very easily pass as a complete lunatic, but also as a genius artist whom almost no one understands. Although “The Tale of King Crab” had its qualities, it remained a little sketchy, closed to me, and it definitely had the potential for an even higher rating.