DIR: Miguel Gomes • WRI: Miguel Gomes , Mariana Ricardo • PRO: Sandro Aguilar, Luís Urbano • DOP: BenoRui Poças • ED: Telmo Churro, Miguel Gomes • DES: Bruno Duarte • CAST: Teresa Madruga, Laura Soveral, Ana Moreira
Hairy monkeys and house-invading crocodiles are things some of us all struggle with – particularly around this time of the year. None more so than Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, who, with his latest film, Tabu, has fashioned a succulent piece of filmmaking that plays with narrative conventions and revels in its unorthodox architecture.
Tabu is split into two chapters. The first chapter, ‘A Lost Paradise’, is based in modern-day Lisbon and introduces us to Pilar, a fifty-something woman, who is propelled toward her eighty-something neighbour Aurora, whose dementia-filled last days consist of paranoid delusions directed at her Cape Verdean maid Santa, accusing her of witchcraft against her, all the while dreaming of those hairy monkeys.
Toward the end of the first chapter we are introduced to Gian Luca Ventura, an old male friend of Aurora, whose recollections of her past thrust the film into its second chapter, ‘Paradise’, based in an unnamed African country 50 years beforehand, where Aurora is revealed to have been the rich owner of a tea plantation as well as a hunter of repute. Gian Luca Ventura tells how he was one of the angles of a love triangle between Aurora, her recently acquired husband, and himself as a heart-throbbing dreamboat with a moustache of glam days gone by.
Gomes uses contrasting styles of black and white to give visual life to both chapters: the film’s first chapter uses a grey 35mm to portray its subject matter of loneliness, loss and alienation. While the second is a lush monochromatic 16mm that dresses the desire of the fantasy of a memory of times gone by. This striking second part eschews all dialogue and plays out to Ventura’s lyrical narration over the background noises to the action taking place on screen – punctuated by bursts of Phil Spector.
The film plays with cinema itself as it juggles an homage to the history of film with Ventura’s remembrance of things past. Tabu’s strength lies in its evocative displacement of reality into an interweaving tale of both past and present, the living and the dead and the stories that connect them.
An entrancing film whose visual reverie and playful direction make for a ravishing cinematic experience.
Tabu is released on 7th September 2012