EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|TABU (director/writer: Miquel Gomes; screenwriter: Mariana Ricardo; cinematographer: Rui Poças; editors: Telmo Churro/Miquel Gomes; music: Joana Sa; cast: Teresa Madruga (Pilar), Laura Soveral (Old Aurora), Ana Moreira (Young Aurora), Henrique Espírito Santo (Old Ventura), Carloto Cotta (Young Ventura), Isabel Cardoso (Santa), Ivo Müller (Aurora’s Husband), Manuel Mesquita (Mário); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Luís Urbando/ Sandro Aguilar; New Wave Films; 2012-Portugal-in Portuguese with English subtitles)|
|"The art-house film
transcends some absurd moments and leaves us with a
lyrical and magically satisfying romantic adventure
story that is both eccentric and sublime."
by Dennis Schwartz
writer-director Miquel Gomes ("The Face You
Deserve"/"The Beloved Month of August"), a former
movie critic, follows along the lines of F. W.
Murnau's masterpiece swansong classic black-and-white 1931
narrative about forbidden love and opposing
civilizations, and he films this enigmatic drama also
in black-and-white as a tribute to all the great
silent films. It moves from a tepid story set in
Lisbon to an exciting one set in Africa.
The film is divided into a
prologue and two chapters: Lost Paradise and Paradise.
The opening prologue in
colonial Africa has an intrepid bearded white hunter
in a pith helmet marching with natives in an
unexplored savannah terrain. The lonely wealthy
plantation owner is unable to live anymore without his
wife and while crossing a river feeds himself to a
crocodile, as the natives do a ritual dance in his
In Lost Paradise, a devout Catholic and
kindly do-gooder, the retired old woman named Pilar (Teresa Madruga), tries to help her
despondent and paranoid gambling addicted elderly
neighbor Miss Aurora (Laura Soveral), who thinks her black maid Santa (Isabel Cardoso) is putting a spell on her
with sorcery. The lonely Aurora (think
1927 Murnau Sunrise) is hospitalized and realizes her
estranged daughter, living in Canada, will not visit,
asks Pilar to locate her old friend Gian Luca Ventura
Espírito Santo) and bring him to the
hospital. But she dies before he's located in his
Things pick-up as Ventura
has coffee with Pilar and Santa after Aurora's
funeral, and he tells them his passionate love story
in the chapter entitled Paradise. We learn that the Portuguese
colonist in the prologue was Aurora's father and he
left her his African farm. The young Aurora (Ana Moreira) marries a respected big-game hunter (Ivo Müller) and is happily married
and pregnant. But she falls for the handsome Italian,
the young Ventura (Carloto Cotta), who is visiting the farm as a
band member in her husband's best friend Mario's (Manuel Mesquita) popular rock band. Their
reckless love leads to tragedy and abandonment, and
under dire circumstances the lovers part and never see
each other again even though still in love. It's
cleverly filmed like a silent and what we hear are
only voiceovers from their love letters, doo-wop
music from Ventura's rock band, and observe how for a
short period in the 1970s on Aurora's tea
plantation, in presumably Mozambique, the affair
started and ended.
The unusual telling of a familiar doomed illicit affair is measured against the onset of the rebellion of the natives against their masters, and though the rebellion remains only as a background story the observations of the colonialists is chillingly on the money. The art-house film transcends some early absurd moments and leaves us with a lyrical and magically satisfying romantic adventure story that is both eccentric and sublime (it very well might be a reflection on early films, as well as the Portuguese colonialists).
REVIEWED ON 6/2/2013 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ