Where The Artist recently resurrected antiquated filmmaking grammar for laughs, Miguel Gomes’ third feature Tabu parodies with more ambitiously philosophical aims. In an early scene, a tour guide intones “all I’m telling you is not reality, but tales,” allowing the script to highlight its central, redolent theme: the interlaced nexuses between memory, cinema and fable.
An unconventional structure splits the film in two: the first part (titled ‘A Lost Paradise’) set in present-day Lisbon; the second (‘Paradise’) in a dreamlike vision of Africa, with dialogue muted and replaced by an extended voiceover that tells a tale both romantic, yet softly cynical. There are echoes of Almodovar’s Broken Embraces in Tabu’s heady mix of melodrama and meta-artistry, while its crisp monochrome cinematography and Spector-pop soundtrack provide more direct pleasures. Gomes takes multiple histories – cinematic, familial, colonial – and fashions something wholly fresh and innovative. The bifurcation proves especially effective, weaving a hypnotic narrative that lingers in the mind long after its subtly constructed conclusion. [Chris Buckle]