Critics' Pick

Tabu (NR)

Drama 110 January 25, 2013
By Nick Pinkerton
Tabu is the rare movie you can get tongue-tied just trying to describe: a tragic pop pastiche? A lyrical Old Hollywood melodrama projected on a bedsheet? Better to stick with a simple "wonderful." Although the film is as contemporary as any work of emotional urgency must be, writer/director Miguel Gomes has linked Tabu with the past by shooting in black-and-white, at the Academy ratio of pre-wide-screen movies, and he has appropriated the title of a 1931 South Seas–set picture, the fruit of an odd-couple collaboration between Robert J. Flaherty (Nanook of the North) and F.W. Murnau (Sunrise). Like its namesake, Gomes's Tabu is a divided into sections titled "Paradise" and "Paradise Lost." It's also divided between the presiding spirits of Murnau and Flaherty-- both dedicated to recapturing mankind's savage innocence, something very much at Tabu's heart. The first half is a deadpan comedy following the unhappy life of Pilar (Teresa Madruga) in modern-day Lisbon; the second is narrated by the former lover of Pilar’s dying neighbor, sharing the tale of a romance (the lovers played by Carloto Cotta and Ana Moreira) in colonial Africa. The style of "Paradise," the second half, is somewhere between home-movie nostalgia and Tinseltown-jungle kitsch-- Gomes makes the real Africa feel like a Pre-Code Hollywood back lot. Gomes is commenting on two sorts of colonialism: the European colonization of Africa and Hollywood's colonization of the imagination. The result is a work of sophisticated primitivism that finds aching truth in the phrase "The past is another country."
Miguel Gomes Teresa Madruga, Laura Soveral, Ana Moreira, Henrique Espírito Santo, Henrique Espírito Santo Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo Luis Urbano, Sandro Aguila Adopt Films


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