Tuesday, 25 September 2012


You'd barely know to watch it, but this is obscure filmmaking for the masses. It's about as accessible as any other film this year. Director Miguel Gomes seasons a very traditional tale with moments of surrealism and kitsch, yet is so skillful in embedding them into the tale that they frequently pass by almost unnoticed. In retrospect, Tabu is equally a classic romance, classically presented, and a curious experience, all crocodiles and '50s rock-n-roll and very little dialogue. It takes a long time to get to that classic romance - so long, in fact, that the majority of the first half of the film is focused on a character only marginally relevant to this love story. Despite some odd, self-conscious moments early on, this half (the film is divided into two parts in style, story and chapter titles) is the stronger of the two, unusual, gradually enveloping you in its slight storyline until you care enough about the characters that it may begin its second half, which gains a poignancy, thus, that is carried further as the film progresses. The second half isn't just dominated by narration, it dispenses with conventional dialogue and relies solely upon narration - even as characters sing along to the soundtrack, they're merely miming. Once this initially distancing style is allowed to settle, Gomes and co-writer Mariana Ricardo make full usage of their eloquent, lyrical writing, which comes to, perhaps, better reflect both the film's mood and the characters' than dialogue might have. Music is utilised wisely throughout, and the B&W lensing is as pretty as it ought to be. The cast is marvellous, especially Teresa Madruga as Pilar, so subtle and soulful.