Imagine, for a few moments at least, that Paul Thomas Anderson decided to make his usual wonderful type of movie in the style of a black and white epic from yesteryear. That movie would be Tabu and if you’re not sold on it already then there’s not much else I can tell you that’s going to win you around.
Starting in modern times and then winding back to tell a tale set in the shadow of the titular mountain, Tabu is a superb movie, mainly because of how effortless it all seems. The script is delightful, as are the performances, and the direction is lively and perfectly judged, yet none of it seems to cry out for attention. It just sits there, as the best components of great movies almost always do, and delivers great material in the best possible way.
Discussing the acting in Tabu is a bit pointless. All of the actors do a great job but the whole movie is equally (or even more) about the very relationship between movies and viewers and the expectations and personal views that audiences bring with them to any performance. In many ways, Tabu makes a wonderful companion piece to Hugo, with both being quite a love letter to cinema and its roots. The fact that both films are full of unexpected delights is another common trait.
The downside of the intelligent and thoughtful construction of the movie is that Gomes leaves room for people to add far too much. The silences and pauses throughout could be filled by anything that floats into the mind of the viewer, be it reasonable or a complete work of fantasy. It’s as if the whole movie is teasing at you, having fun and waiting to see just how much you will try to explain and how much you will simply enjoy for what it is.
Numerous wonderful moments abound, from the opening tale of an ill-fated explorer to a visiting student pretending to be someone else so that she can gently let down her “host” to some groovy musical interludes (that aren’t really interludes but punctuate the movie in such a way that they feel as if they are). And, from hearing Gomes talk about the movie, it’s clear that he is a man who seeks to discover and film such moments. Of course, this adds to my worry that I’m reading a lot more into Tabu than was ever intended but I have to accept the fact that Gomes is an unassuming, very talented, guy and, ironically enough, needs the reaction of the audience to praise an immense talent that he tries to play down.
DIRECTOR: MIGUEL GOMES
WRITER: MIGUEL GOMES, MARIANA RICARDO
STARS: TERESA MADRUGA, LAURA SOVERAL, ANA MOREIRA, HENRIQUE ESPIRITO SANTO, CARLOTO COTTA
RUNTIME: 118 MINS APPROX