The Tale of King Crab: Legendary, by David Bax
What is it about the sound of water that’s so cinematic? Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s recent masterpiece, Memoria, sets a huge chunk of its final act alongside a quietly burbling stream. In a similar way, Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis’ vivid and heartbreaking The Tale of King Crab ends on the shore of a lake with ripples gently lapping against the stony beach. These sounds add tone and texture that fill in the emptiness in the same way that a quiet room is never really silent. But there’s something more to it, I’m certain. Maybe it’s that bodies of water make the noises they do because they move in the same way a great film does, at once rhythmic and unpredictable.
That’s a bit like what a movie shot on celluloid is like (The Tale of King Crab was shot on 16mm film). The grain swirls so that the images, even when still, are alive. De Righi and Zoppis take advantage of that, filling the movie with colors like oil paintings with no hard lines or right angles, bleeding into one another. The light shimmers off of bodies of men and water alike, the glares like dancing starbursts.
De Righi and Zoppis seem to have cast the film with this visual variety in mind as well. The Tale of King Crab is peopled with faces that possess well-earned character, craggy and flush with red blotches from sun and drink.
These faces tell stories. No, literally, the movie is a story, set in the past, told by a bunch of men over drinks in the present. It’s a folk tale about a folk hero, a man named Luciano (Gabriele Silli) who once stood up to the Prince who governed the land in defense of those who worked it and was made to suffer for doing so. And when they’re not rehashing Luciano’s legend, they’re singing folk songs.
By the end, the film has transformed into a kind of Western, maybe the most potent form of folk mythology that the cinema has come up with. De Righi and Zoppis are delighted to indulge themselves in the genre’s delights and to add them to the cornucopia of narrative flourishes in which they revel. The Tale of King Crab sets out to celebrate the stories we love to tell and hear but also to embody all of the things that make those stories wonderful. From courage to heartache to love to violence and everything else, this movie has it all.