Tabu | Chicago Reader

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118 minutes · 2013

This strikingly beautiful black-and-white feature by Miguel Gomes (Our Beloved Month of August) considers the legacies of early cinema and Portuguese colonialism in Africa, suggesting that both were rooted in false illusions of remaking the world. The film takes its name and many of its themes from F.W. Murnau and Robert Flaherty's classic ethnographic drama Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931) but inverts that movie's two-part structure, starting in a contemporary "Paradise Lost" before flashing back to the 1960s to tell a tragic love story ironically titled "Paradise." The first half, shot in Lisbon in luminous 35-millimeter, is quietly bittersweet; the second, shot in 16-millimeter in the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique, looks like a gritty documentary but is wildly romantic in tone. The film is rife with suggestive off-rhymes like these; they elude easy interpretation while yielding rich, sensual surface textures. In Portuguese with subtitles.

See our full review: Year in review: 2013 at the movies

Year in review: 2013 at the movies

J.R. Jones and Ben Sachs each pick their top ten. »

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