EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|TABU: A STORY OF THE SOUTH SEAS (director/writer: F.W. Murnau; screenwriter: Robert J. Flaherty; cinematographer: Floyd Crosby; editor: Arthur Brooks; music: Hugo Riesenfeld; cast: Matahi (Matahi, the boy), Hitu (Tabu, the old warrior ), Reri (Reri, the girl ), Bill Bambridge (Jean, the policeman), Jules (Jules, the Captain), Kong Ah (The Chinese Trader); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: F.W. Murnau; Kino Video; 1931)|
lyrical film was shot on location in Tahiti."
by Dennis Schwartz
German filmmaker F.W.
Murnau's ("Sunrise"/"The Last Laugh"/"Faust") last
film, after a three year stay in Hollywood. He died
in a Hollywood traffic accident just prior to the
premiere and supposedly the gay filmmaker was
discovered with his chauffeur's cock in his mouth.
This brilliantly simple lyrical film was shot
on location in Tahiti in 1929 and was meant to be a
collaboration between the great documentary
filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty and Murnau, but because
of artistic differences they had a split and the
studio backed Murnau's proposal to shoot it as a
fictional melodrama about an ill-fated forbidden
love affair among the Polynesian natives and
thankfully rejected Flaherty's proposal to shoot it
as a straight ethnographic documentary. Murnau
bought out Flaherty's share and shot it solo, with
Flaherty remaining as the cinematographer. But when
his camera broke he walked off the set and the
studio quickly hired Floyd Crosby (his son David made
a career as a rocker, singing in the band called
Crosby, Stills & Young), who did a marvelous
Oscar-winning job as cinematographer for this sensuous
shot in black-and-white South Seas tale. It's filmed
in two chapters, Paradise and Paradise Lost, and with
an appealing non-professional cast. The title, for the
mostly silent film, literally means death.
The lovely young and playful Bora-Bora island girl Reri has been chosen by the visiting chief of Fanuma to be the untouched maiden who is sacred to the gods, since the prior maiden passed away. The honor comes with a "tabu," that for her to be seduced will bring death to herself and the seducer. Nevertheless Reri is in love with the handsome young pearl-diver fisherman Matahi and cries over being chosen. After the island natives stage a celebration in Reri's honor in which she dances sensuously with Matahi, she's forced to sail away with island chief warrior Tabu (Hitu). Matahi reacts by kidnapping Reri and taking her to an island ruled by whites, hoping the tyrannical laws of their forefathers would not be followed there. The couple do fine there, but the white island government wishes to keep the peace with the native islanders and informs Tabu of their whereabouts. Then Reri receives a letter from Tabu stating she has three days to return to him or Matahi will die. Reri goes with Tabu to avoid the death of her lover, and the crestfallen Matahi swims after their sailboat until he drowns.
REVIEWED ON 3/17/2013 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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