Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tabu (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Miguel Gomes' "Tabu" is a poetic meditation on the beauty of Africa as well as a playful tribute on the silent genre. Gomes' idol is the 1920s filmmaker F.W. Marnau.

The film opens on a black and white scene in Africa. A melancholy explorer wanders the earth. He finds a beautiful woman and a photogenic crocodile with a strange connection. He jumps in the river, stricken by unrequited love.

Cut to present day Lisbon. An octogenarian woman, Aurora (Laura Soveral) driven mad by visions, is convinced that her housekeeper (Isabella Munoz Cardoza) has put a hex on her.

These scenes project the enigmatic face of Aurora juxtaposed against a bare scorched earth landscape which echo the style of Bergman or Luis Bunuel's "Land Without Bread". There is also a dash of Tennessee Williams here, given Aurora's mania.

In her advanced age, she is gripped by nostalgia and admits she dreams of an old adventurer, with the bearing of legendary author Ambrose Bierce (Henrique Espirito Santo).

Everyone in the house think Aurora has dementia.

Egad! Who appears at Aurora's funeral but the adventurer himself, Gian-Luca Ventura.

The next series of vignettes have a madcap silent film flavor, and feature young Aurora (Ana Moreira) as an Ernest Hemingway heroine and  Ventura as a dashing Douglas Fairbanks (Carlotto Cotta) with sidekick  Mario  (Manuel Mesquita), who resembles Sal Mineo and is a defrocked priest.

These stories have a comical, tall tale irreverence. The boyish priest starts a 60's style boy band in the manner of  The Rascals or The Byrds. Mario takes up the mike without warning at a moment's notice. In one instance, he shoots a record cover while perched in a tree. If my 60s memory serves me correctly, this is a nod to The Monkees.

In addition to silent farce, "Tabu" also pays respect to Polanski's "Repulsion" with its tilted perspectives, in one specific scene where Aurora could be seen to be lying sideways on the wall.

"Tabu" is painstakingly detailed which requires some patience but for those that stick with the narrative, they will be well rewarded with many eerily beautiful scenes of Africa where rolling hills are depicted as sentient forces, crouching and hidden like terrestrial elephants.

Throughout, the watchful crocodile leers (a one-time valentine gift to Aurora) and even snakes his devious way to suburban Lisbon, melting into the amphibious carpet. Perhaps he is a creature of death or a cupric love-pet. The intent of his smile is left up to you.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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