Director: Miguel Gomes. Portugal, 2012. 118 minutes. Cert: CLUB. Language: Portuguese (subtitled).
“a delirious celebration of story and the cinematic imagination…the most joyously odd and surprising film of the year” – The Guardian *****
The critical hit of the 2012 Berlinale, Miguel Gomes’ rich, funny and poignant film is a two-part tale examining love, loneliness and the power of memory. Shot in narrow screen black and white, it starts in the present day but culminates at the start of the Portuguese Colonial War in 1961. TABU is a story about love, memory and melancholy and a rueful contemplation of Portugal’s colonial history.
Three women, neighbours in a Lisbon apartment complex, respond in different ways to the loneliness of their enigmatic existence. One of them has a dark secret in her past, which gradually unfolds in a long flashback that casts an ironic light on the lost paradise that the characters, the filmmaker and the audience are all in search of.
An excerpt from The New York Times interview with the director:
‘Mr. Gomes’s latest film, “Tabu,” is his most ambitious shape shifter yet. The first section, set in contemporary Lisbon, is the story of Pilar, a devout do-gooding spinster who attends political rallies, haunts movie theaters and indulges the temperamental behavior of her elderly neighbor, Aurora. With the appearance of a man from Aurora’s past, the film travels to the misty mountainside plains of a Portuguese colony in Africa decades earlier to tell the story of a bygone romance in the obsolete language of an old movie.
Asked a few months ago why he so often makes films with two-part structures, Mr. Gomes, a former critic whose deadpan sense of humor is evident both in person and in his work, said, “What counts is the third part, which does not exist in the film but is produced in your mind.”’