Tabu

2012

Drama / Romance

8
IMDb Rating 7.3 10 6016

Synopsis


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1010.74 MB
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Portuguese
NR
24 fps
1hr 58 min
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1.89 GB
1440*1072
Portuguese
NR
24 fps
1hr 58 min
P/S 2 / 9

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by polar24 8 / 10

"You may run as far as you can for as long as you like, but you will not escape your heart"

A safari hunter drifts across the starched heat of the African plains, stealthily prowling amongst the tall grass, the scorching shimmering sunlight falls upon the shadows of predatorial lions, hungry hippos and the gleaming jaws of the crocodile. A vinyl recording of 60s rock 'n' roll echoing over time through generations suggest a nostalgic remembrance of a distant land, which later plays a greater significance in a saga of unrequited love, regret and (literally) life and death.

Initially, Tabu is a love story in disguise, a unfinished love story sprawling over a lifetime of passion, regret, duty and propriety. In it's latter stages it contemplates ideas of memory, unrequited love, ageing, class inequality, prejudice, and European colonialism in African hills and plains.

The first part follows the life of an enigmatic elderly woman in contemporary Portugal - titled Paradise Lost - as she goes about her daily life, we learn snippets about her about her prosaic hobbies, simple pleasures, prejudices, idiosyncrasies, detests, and regrets over a sobering simple lifestyle, a long way from the dream life she idolised. Her simple pleasures have allowed her to gamble away her savings and her estranged family by doing so; in her current state, she had little left except her dedicated maid and carer Pilar who initially acts as the audience's eyes and ears into the portrait of a solitary woman.

What is the intriguing background to this lady's prime of beauty and youth? The modern landscape of metropolitan Lisbon, Portugal is industrial, bleak and sobering, at times sad and efficient, a far world from that which she inhabited in her youth. It is not long until what find out the origins of her melancholy and frustration, and what exactly has been trying to atone for most of her later life.

So begins a tale in colonial Africa, a tale of love and betrayal, rock 'n' roll, diamonds, and an alligator. This second part, subtitled Paradise is almost silent with only diegetic sound imposed during key moments with no title cards as far as I can remember. It is a wonderfully romantic and nostalgic yet with an undercurrent on living the edge of a precipice - the dangerous beasts of the African plains, the wild unfamiliar natives and rugged landscape - there exists a sense of tragedy combined with high passion, regret and wild party impulses.

Whereas part one is melancholic as it is bitter and comic, the second part contrasts the beauty of youth, the blinding African heat and sun, it exposes the storytelling medium the by abandoning almost all dialogue and all but some diegetic sound effects. The compositions and framing are gorgeous, a simple story of unrequited love requiring little explanation and is suggested by moods, looks, and atmosphere and nostalgic memories. The economy in telling a story almost wordlessly, embraces the feelings and mood of silent storytelling placing the onus of eliciting emotion on the charismatic and effortless performances. From the frustrating, fussy and capricious Aurora to the charismatic, carefree, jeunesse Ventura and the supporting jaunty characters, each signify the contrasts in class, social status and the colonial class system soon to collapse under political revolution.

What is essentially an unrequited love story /melodrama is a charismatic and rollicking passionate ride with some crystal sharp compositions in textured black and white. This is an impressive, technically creative, charismatic, heartbreaking, melancholic and nostalgic film; perhaps more daring and arguably less conventional than that other lauded silent film of last year. Tabu is gorgeously unpredictable, surprising and artful.

Reviewed by MoodyB84 8 / 10

A gem of a film not just about love, but love of cinema

I watched Tabu knowing very little about it and found the film a real treat to watch, but however I will try to avoid giving too much away as this is one of those films that are best to watch not knowing too much. The whole viewing experience is very rewarding, not just emotionally, but also in that your required patience is amply rewarded. Though the entire film is shot in black and white, the two different stories are told in differing stylistic ways, making Tabu a very fitting tribute to cinema itself.

The first half, firstly being set in the present day, has almost a surrealist feel to it, with some apparently random moments and new characters being introduced suddenly. This does require your attention and anyone could be forgiven for wondering where the hell the film is going. However, as the first half reaches its inevitable conclusion and we enter the second half, this is where Tabu becomes an engaging and emotionally rewarding film. Many of the supposedly random moments of the first half now fit in perfectly as we are revealed what happened when Aurora was a young woman living in Africa.

The second half is a rather simple story of an illicit love affair that could never be but is told in an emotionally powerful way, enhanced by the framed narrative structure and deeply mournful narration of who we discover to be the man she loved. The power of the voice over is enhanced by the completely different stylistic approach of the second half, the only dialogue throughout is the voice over of Aurora's lover and the whole second half is shot in 16mm. The poignant reflections of the narrator can easily be interpreted as also being the director's and perhaps us the viewer's feelings towards silent era cinema of a bygone age. This stylistic approach is very much purposeful, all other diagetic sounds can be heard, and the characters are physically talking to each other. The emotional power is only enhanced by the fact all we can hear is the non-diagetic narration and having to otherwise rely on expressions and body language of the characters. Part two feels like a two sided approach to love of the past; a past loved one and a love of cinema of the past.

Despite the main subject of the story at hand, Tabu is not a completely bleak film, the playful use of different cinematic techniques and music are a joy to watch and the catharsis of the ending leaves a feeling of poignancy but not abject misery. There are however elements to Tabu that may frustrate. It feels that the protagonist of part one is Pilar, Aurora's neighbour and her story does feel frustratingly unfinished as we see elements of her daily life that make us truly care about her as these moments have literally nothing to do with Aurora. However, this is the story of Aurora through the eyes of those around her and in that case the stylistic approach of part one in retrospect fits with that of part two. The surrealist and playful approach to narrative structure in part one may seem pretentious and potentially alienating to some, but after watching the entire film I could only look back at it with positive feelings.

Original and unique, Tabu is a thoroughly engrossing and emotionally rewarding story that serves not only as a tribute to human love, but also love of the history of cinema. The first thirty minutes or so may feel hard work at first, but what the remainder of the film has to offer more than amply rewards the viewer's patience.

Reviewed by octopusluke 9 / 10

A film like no other. Unmissable

This is a tough film to discuss in 500 words. It's so multifaceted, textural and moody. I'll try my hardest, but from the off, I must suggest that you just experience Tabu for yourself. You may have a different experience or opinion to me, you may feel the exact same. Either way, you won't regret it.

Borrowing the name, two-part structure and love affair-plus-colonisation premise from F.W. Murnau's 1931 classic, Miguel Gomes' Tabu is a film of unmistakable vintage. But it's magnificently subversive too. With one foot in the past, one in the future and a head orbiting in it's own artistic universe, it's a little thing of beguiling beauty.

Tabu opens with a tragicomic prologue centring around an exasperated explorer trekking through the harsh jungles of Southern Africa. Through Gomes' voice-over narration, we learn that he is distraught over the death of his wife some years ago, and this lost adventure will be his last. No crocodile tears on display, but there is an ominous little croc that lingers through the sequence - and the rest of the film - with cold, mournful eyes. In a word, stunning.

From here, we begin with the chapter "A LOST PARADISE". In something that resembles a present day Lisbon, we meet our leading lady Aurora (Laura Soveral). A compulsive gambler whose memories are slipping away from her, yet images of hairy monkeys and African farmers still manage to pervade her dreams. Whilst she tries to recall her youth with altruistic next-door-neighbour Pilar (Teresa Madruga) and Santa (Isabel Cardoso), a black woman whom Aurora often woefully calls a housemaid/tyrannous witch, the fatalism of the prologue suggests that Aurora will only be able to relive her glory days in the afterlife.

Cue part 2, "PARADISE". Told through vivid flashbacks and narration from former lover Gian- Luca Venture, we're finally made aware of Aurora's past once lost. Married to a wealthy farmer in the idyllic rural setting of Mozambique, Aurora embarks on a fiery affair with the devilishly handsome nomad Ventura, after her eager pet crocodile crossed the forbidden line into his neighbouring garden. It's a time of lost innocence and furtive whispers, so Gomes decides to strip away all forms of diegetic sound, leaving just the bodies and faces of incredible actors Ana Moreira and Carloto Cotta to express this simple, enduring love.

Like Leos Carax's comeback success Holy Motors, Tabu is a film entrenched in film history and scholarly technique (unsurprising considering that they both started out as film critics). But Gomes goes one step further. Filmed in intoxicating black & white by cinematographer Rui Poças, Tabu is beautifully photographed; from the alarmingly stark opening image of a sweaty explorer looking lost in an African jungle, to the final image of a baby crocodile turning away from the camera and crawling out of frame. In an inspired touch, the two halves are filmed in different film stocks – the first in familiar 35mm, and the second in exquisitely old-fashioned 16mm. They mingle together to create a film with a perennial quality, existing as a piece of cinematic artifice but with a modern, reflexive twist.

Similarly, the sound construction is unnervingly good. Mixing the deadened silence with ambient sounds, poetic narration and a Portuguese rendition of "Be My Little Baby" (made famous by The Ronettes) the composite sonisphere speaks for the unspoken, tabooed love to exceptionally powerful effect.

Because the film's aesthetic is so dazzling, it's easy to lose track of the whimsical storyline. Based on diary entries and private letters, it has a very nostalgic feel, similar to Chris Marker's Sans Soleil. Just like that film, Tabu isn't a perfect movie, there's pacing issues and Gomes seems to be wrestling with three separate endings. But there's enough moments of unforgettable virtuosity, grace and intellect to make Tabu unmissable.

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