Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Tabu (2012)

PT/DE/BR/FR 2012. [No copyright line on the print.] PC: O Som e a Fúria, Gullane Filmes, Shellac Sud. P: Sandro Aguilar, Luís Urbano. D: Miguel Gomes. SC: Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo. DP: Rui Poças - shot on 16 mm - digital intermediate supervisor: Frank Hellmann - digital compositor: Markus "Maggi" Selchow - printed on 35 mm - black and white - 1,37:1. PD: Bruno Duarte. AD: Silke Fischer. ED: Miguel Gomes, Telmo Churro. C: Teresa Madruga (Pilar), Laura Soveral (old Aurora), Ana Moreira (young Aurora), Henrique Espírito Santo (Old Ventura), Carloto Cotta (Young Ventura), Isabel Muñoz Cardoso (Santa), Ivo Müller (Aurora's husband), Manuel Mesquita (Mário). 118 min. - A 35 mm The Match Factory print with English subtitles and with the image printed in a letterboxed and pillarboxed Academy ratio screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Film of the Month: May), 29 April 2013.

Primeira parte: Paraiso perdido. Segunda parte: Paraiso.

A melancholy meditation on the passage of time, the memory of a lost love, and the demise of Portuguese colonialism in Africa. It is also the story of a crime and the secret the lovers never reveal to others - because the rebelling freedom fighters want to seize the glory of the killing of a colonialist.

A point of reference might be Marguerite Duras.

I admire the personal and lyrical approach but cannot fully relate to this way of yearning to the colonial past.

Tabu has been shot on black and white 16 mm and we screened it on film, but something has happened in the blow-up, the digital intermediate, and the process of letterboxing / pillarboxing the image to be screened in the classical Academy ratio in the center of the 1,85:1 widescreen ratio. The film look is not convincing in the film projection.

Plot from Wikipedia:

The film takes place shortly before the Portuguese Colonial War began.


A narrator, Miguel Gomes himself, reads in voice over a poetical, and somehow philosophical, text that invokes a legend in which the Creator orders, but the heart commands: the suicide of an intrepid explorer who, somewhere in Africa, long ago, plunges in the turbid waters of a river and is devoured by a crocodile. The reason why he commits such a desperate act is due to a frustrated love affair. Many swear, confirming the facts, that a beautiful lady is sighted on the banks of a river, together with a sad crocodile and that both creatures share a mysterious empathy.

Part 1—Paradise Lost

Three disparate women dwell in an old building in Lisbon. Aurora, an octogenarian living off her pension, eccentric, talkative and superstitious, seeming more dead than alive, and Santa, her housemaid from Cape Verde, live at the same apartment. Santa is semi-literate, but proficient in the divinatory art of voodoo, a well known African practice. Pilar, their neighbor and friend, a catholic middle-aged woman, and militant social benefactor, also occupies her leisure, involving herself with their psycho-dramas.

Pilar has another friend, a romantic painter in love, a gentleman who insists on offering her tacky pieces of art. In fact, she is more concerned with her friend Aurora: with Aurora's solitude, with her frequent escapes to the casino. She is even more worried about her black housemaid, with her long silences and devil arts. Santa thinks that it's better to take care of oneself without annoying others, so keeps quiet.

Something else concerns the old lady: understanding she will die soon, she feels someone is missing her, someone her friends have never heard about: Gian-Luca Ventura. So she asks Pilar to find him. She succeeds in doing so and the man appears. He is an old colonist, a disturbed man, from Mozambique, an ancient Portuguese colony. Another story emerges, beginning: "Aurora had a farm in Africa at the foothill of Mount Tabu..."

Part 2—Paradise

Flashback: The story of Aurora’s life, told by Gian-Luca Ventura in voice over. Gian-Luca is an explorer, a kind of 20th century Portuguese Livingstone.

In 1960s Portuguese Africa, Aurora and her husband live together near the Tabu Mountain. She is a skilled hunter, never missing a shot. She owns a small crocodile, a gift from her husband, which moves around the house as a pet.

One day, the animal runs away. The pregnant Aurora finds it in Ventura’s house, and so they meet; they begin a passionate and dangerous love affair. Gian-Luca confides in his friend, Mario, about the affair. Mario demands that Gian Luca end the affair and when he is ignored, the two start fighting. The heavily pregnant Aurora picks up a revolver and shoots and kills Mario. She later gives birth to a girl. Two days later, Gian-Luca leaves Africa for good

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