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4.1 out of 5 stars20
4.1 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 4 March 2013
Apart from anything else, this extraordinary Portuguese film is stunning to look at, black-and-white in Academy ratio with the second half as a silent movie with added sounds and voice-over commentary (comparison with The Artist would not come amiss). In the first half, set in present-day Lisbon, a depressed middle-aged woman called Pilar is trying to cope with her dying demented friend Aurora. Aurora indicates that she would like to contact a long-lost male friend called Ventura, also living in Lisbon but at an unknown address. After Aurora dies, Pilar tracks down Ventura, who proceeds to tell her the story we see in the second half, where he and Aurora had an illicit love affair in the 1960s in an unnamed colony in Africa. On watching the film a second time, various ramblings of the elderly Aurora make sense, in the light of the dramatic events of part 2 (which can be enjoyed as a short silent movie on its own). Oh, and there's lots of shots of crocodiles, both baby and grown-up (also relevant to the story).
Disc 2 consists of two short films by Gomes, of little interest as far as I could see. And there are no "extras" worth speaking of. But those deficiencies are fully compensated for by the fascinating and extraordinary Tabu.
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on 6 March 2013
Tabu is quite simply an exceptional love film of love and loss, tragic and humane, realistic and moving. What at first seems like a film about an elderly lady in modern-day Lisbon suffering from dementia and trying to hold on to the last scraps of her memory about her previous life, turns out to be a story about naive, youthful love in exotic climates.

Not wanting to give much more away, I end here. Tabu is a most see film that brings a refreshing twist to the age-old theme of love.
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`Tabu' is Portugese film-maker Miguel Gomes' third film, at its heart is a story about dreams, love and old age. `Tabu' is set in two parts, one that is current in Lisbon, Portugal and one in the past in Mozambique, Africa.

At the centre of both parts of the film is Aurora (Laura Soveral), an elderly woman living in Lisbon whose neglectful daughter has left her in the care of her African maid, Santa (Isabel Muñoz Cardoso). Self-absorbed and disenchanted with life, Aurora is unfortunate to have her fathers gambling habit and regularly blows her monthly allowance at the casino. Having no money to get home, her neighbour Pilar (Teresa Madruga) and Santa pick her up, Aurora explaining that a dream made her believe she'd get lucky. Ill-health forces her to ask Pilar to find an old flame, Ventura (Henrique Espiríto Santo), and his recollections of their love affair in Mozambique become the film's second part.

As `Tabu' moves into the past, it switches from 35mm to 16mm film, gaining hazier tones to match the fading memories. Many of the supposedly random moments and puzzling events in part one of Aurora's life soon fit into place perfectly as all is soon revealed. The 50 years or so younger and more egotistical Aurora (Ana Moreira) is married to plantation owner (Ivo Müller), she embarks in a doomed romance with the young Ventura (Carloto Cotta). The second part of this film is unusual, only music, the ambient sounds of Africa, and the older Ventura's narration can be heard, never the characters' voices.

Initially `Tabu' is quirky and intriguing, but its playful sense of mystery and ambition becomes annoying the longer the narration carries the film. Gomes' distancing techniques, where the lack of sound forces you to watch the characters interactions, fails to enliven or enhance the story. `Tabu" is a black-and-white film with some charm and innocence, clearly a film evoking the silent era films of the past.

As with all dreams, its meanings are abstract and ambiguous, and `Tabu' is so. You are left to imagine much of the drama, but for all the stylistic and structural innovations, ultimately the central story of unrequited love and obsession leaves me unmoved.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 February 2016
This stylised gentle eccentric Portuguese film, split into two distinct parts, is a beguiling story of two women. The first part (Paradise Lost) set in modern day Lisbon and focusing on Pilar (a kind, devout middle-aged Catholic woman) is downbeat and melancholic in tone while the second part (Paradise) set half a century earlier in colonial Africa and focusing on Aurora (her recently deceased cantankerous neighbour) is hypnotisingly melodramatic. There is a touching underlying sadness to the contemporary segment as we observe Pilar living her life of quiet resignation. By contrast, Aurora’s colonial life, recounted by her ex-lover Gian-Luca Ventura after her funeral and presented as a protracted flashback, is a poignant tale of love, betrayal, guilt, regret and a crocodile (really). Now here’s the rub. The haunting narration for Paradise is provided by Gian-Luca, therefore what we hear are his recollections, his memories. However, what we observe is Pilar’s interpretation of these memories, which she does within the context of an ethereal ‘silent movie’ (with accompanying sound effects, musical numbers and no dialogue) since the only reference point she has are the black and white films she watches at her local cinema. There is an affectionate dry humour permeating the movie with some delightful surprises, such as an ex-pat beat-combo playing cover versions of 1960s pop songs. This is a remarkable and wonderful film with both a depth and meaning which can so easily be overlooked. I definitely recommend at least one viewing.
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on 31 January 2014
A strangely haunting, atmospheric and disturbing film about obsession. This film demonstrates how the destructiveness of obsessive-compulsive thinking can take hold in one's own life, and through us, lives of others, both in the present and the future. In this case, the obsession changed its focus from sexual obsession to gambling, the latter conducted as if in a dream.
The crocodile represents the symbolic aspects of both repetitively returning to something familiar, alongside an omnipresent self-destructiveness and threat. The creature is there, half submerged, representing the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the behaviour of the protagonists: particularly the female lead.
If ever there was an argument for Freud's theory of the unconscious in the sense that what is not consciously known, and therefore an aspect of the 'unthought known' can and will be acted out in another form, this is it.
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on 3 January 2013
Film Critic turned Director, Miguel Gomes' film occupies a unique space even in art cinema, as it starts it appears to be a nature documentary, then from there is develops into something else, showing the final days of an elderly woman's life, then it changes again into a period drama showing the aforementioned elderly woman's youth under Mt Tabu and the lost love of her life. Every bit is immaculately performed, but the recognition belong to Carloto Cotta and Ana Moreira. To boil Tabu down to is base elements; it is two films and a short film, within a film. A love letter to the form, sections Paradise and Paradise Lost are shot through different types of film and each recalls a different epoch of cinema. Be it the classic Hollywood era, silent film or something more contemporary. Tabu is artistically and historically ambitious, and utterly successful. As well as that the construction of the story is pitch perfect, every segment feeds into and informs another creating one magical whole.
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on 20 July 2013
I saw this in the cinema last year (2012), and was blown away by how amazing it is,
So good in fact I wanted to get it on dvd and watch it again.

It begins slow, but the film is easily one of the best of 2012, as well as being just a fantastic film,
full of rich emotion, relatable tales of love and loss, and a timeless quality.
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on 2 June 2013
I love it! It has very quickly made it to the forefront of my all-time fave films, right up there with Babette's Feast and Tokyo Story.
It's that rare film I can, and will, watch again and again.
I've bought several copies of the DVDs as surprise presents for my friends. Incredibly talented works like this must be shared, and savoured.
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on 27 August 2013
Sound film recorded between silent and talking, the format of Tabu Murnau is 1.20 and not 1.37 as the film Gomes did. Murnau’ film has no sound effects but is accompanied by a soundtrack. Gomes beeps in his film as wished by Murnau (nature sounds, voice, music) while keeping silent dialogue of the characters...
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on 10 August 2014
I'll admit I struggled at first to get in to this but from about a third of the way through I started to enjoy it more.
While the first half is, I would say not as strong as the second it is an enjoyable nonetheless and you can see why things are as they are when the second half plays out. The English dialogue parts are a little strange and seemingly contrived and awkwardly delivered but it doesn't detract.
The second half is the story of Aurora narrated by the lover seen throughout the second part. There is no audible dialogue only the background sounds of the waterfall and gun shots etc, I suspect to give an element of uncertainty for the viewer as if being recalled from memory. You only have clips of narration and the images to build the story of what is being said for yourself.
It is essentially a tragic love story and while I wouldn't normally choose that genre to watch this a different slant on how to make one. I'm in two minds as to whether audible speech in the second part would be better for it but we'll never know so I'll enjoy it on face value and say that it is worth watching, even if it is a touch on the long side.
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