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Critic Reviews for Tabu
It takes a while to get to the meat of the movie, but it's well worth the wait.
It almost seems a parody of willfully obscure art-house fare. Yet it has an undertow that sucks you in as often as it strands you back on shore.
A kind of jigsaw puzzle, spiced up with references to "White Mischief," "Out of Africa" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," that will frustrate some audiences and fascinate others.
The audience is left to imagine much of the story, though it is clear it involves love, betrayal, guilt, regret and a recurring crocodile.
Portuguese director Miguel Gomes' latest film moves through different styles and eras, and proves that shooting in black and white is as versatile as it ever was.
Audience Reviews for Tabu
With a gorgeous black-and-white photography and an impressive thematic rigor, this is a welcome surprise of tremendous poetry, a narrative that confronts frustration with memory in a lyrical homage to silent movies accompanied by an extremely haunting narration.
After a lonely old woman dies in Lisbon, her ex-lover tells of their tempestuous affair in colonial Africa in a dialogue-free flashback. The second half of the film is a stylistically appealing melodrama, but the first hour is slow, emotionally flat, and basically unnecessary.
"Tabu" starts with Pilar(Teresa Madruga), a middle aged woman, watching a period piece about a tropical explorer who kills himself after being confonted by a ghost. In real life, she is stood up at the Lisbon airport by a young Polish woman she was hoping to host. That leaves her plenty of time to cope with Aurora(Laura Soveral), her elderly neighbor, after Santa(Isabel Cardoso), Aurora's maid, alerts her to her going to a casino where she promptly loses all of her money before possibly pawning her furs for a return trip. Pilar is in charge because Aurora's grown daughter made only a hasty visit when she returned to Portugal for the holidays to visit her husband's family.
"Tabu" is a beguiling allegory about how Portugal deals, or does not deal with, its colonial past, as the past seems insistent on returning to haunt the present. For example, Aurora is not merely going senile but becoming her younger self again.(That might explain a crocodile making an appearance in both the prologue and the second half. Or maybe the director just likes crocodiles.) By contrast, Santa and Pilar seem intent on breaking such a cycle; Santa by reading 'Robinson Crusoe' while Pilar takes up various forms of activism. As time moves day by day in the present and by the month in the past, both have a lovely colorless dreamlike intensity while the past has sound effects, musical numbers but no dialogue. At least in Portugal, they take down their Christmas decorations in a timely fashion.
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