Arabian Nights | Chicago Reader

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125 minutes · 2015

Drama, Fantasy
For this 2015 trilogy of dramatic features—subtitled The Restless One (125 min.), The Desolate One (131 min.), and The Enchanted One (125 min.)—Portuguese director Miguel Gomes uses One Thousand and One Nights, the classic collection of Middle Eastern and southeast Asian folktales, to consider his country's recent fiscal crisis. Coscripted with Mariana Ricardo and Telmo Churro, the films deftly blend political satire, escapist fable, and reporting on the unemployed. Gomes appears onscreen as a filmmaker who, caught breaking a 2012 state law on cinema, offers stories for a reduced sentence; enter Scheherazade (Crista Alfaiate), the beautiful storyteller of the book, whose vignettes, drawn from present-day news items, are infused with magic realism. An anti-authoritarian thread links segments involving a rooster that's charged with disturbing the peace, a song contest for illegally trapped chaffinches, a protest march of rowdy off-duty policemen, and a committee of international bankers cursed with extreme erections. The films are enchanting for their irony, their humanity, and their reflexiveness. In Portuguese with subtitles.

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