FROM PORTUGAL WITH PLAYFULNESS

tabu.jpg

This Season: Nicholas Barber's pick of the new films is a dreamlike melodrama from Miguel Gomes...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, September/October 2012

A European, black-and-white period melodrama that doesn’t have any dialogue? A year ago, a description of "Tabu" would have read like a recipe for box-office poison, but after the world-beating triumph of "The Artist", Miguel Gomes’s experimental Portuguese film might just find an audience. Not that that audience won’t be perplexed from time to time. Opening with a droll prologue featuring an explorer, his wife’s ghost and a "sad and melancholic crocodile", "Tabu" settles down in present-day Lisbon, where a middle-aged good samaritan (Teresa Madruga) is coping with the eccentricities of her elderly neighbour, Aurora (Laura Soveral). Her efforts are touching, funny and a tiny bit boring, but just as you’re losing patience, Gomes whisks you back to colonial Africa in the 1960s, when Aurora (now played by Ana Moreira) was a big-game-hunting beauty. This is the film’s near-silent section: in lieu of dialogue, it has a voice-over from an old man, recalling the tragic affair he had with Aurora in his dashing youth. Gomes’s playful storytelling works like a charm, transforming what might have been a torrid tale of tropical lust into a dreamlike, uplifting study of loss, loneliness and memory. It’s not "The Artist", but it’s definitely artistic.

Tabu opens in Britain Sept 7th

FILM AT A GLANCE

Anna Karenina (Sept 7th). All the world’s a stage: Joe Wright and Keira Knightley’s third literary adaptation, after "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement", squeezes Tolstoy’s novel into a run-down theatre. The script is by Tom Stoppard (profiled in the current issue).

Hope Springs (Sept 14th). Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play a passionless couple, with Steve Carell as their marriage guidance counsellor. Surprisingly frank about sexuagenarian sexuality, it may prompt a few people to re-ignite their relationships.

Killing Them Softly (Sept 21st). Brad Pitt is a hitman whose business is hit by the recession in Andrew Dominik’s deliciously nasty tale of disorganised crime.

The Campaign (Sept 28th). Best known for "Austin Powers", Jay Roach has also directed two TV docudramas about presidential elections, so he may be able to deliver the impossible: a satire of American politics that is even sillier than the real thing. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis try to out-buffoon each other.

Skyfall (Oct 26th). Marking 50 years of Bond films, "Skyfall" has the blandest title in the series, but also its classiest cast: Craig and Dench joined by Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw as a youthful Q.

Ruby Sparks (Oct 12th). The second comedy-drama from the directors of "Little Miss Sunshine" retells the Pygmalion myth as if it were by Woody Allen. A neurotic author (Paul Dano) writes about his dream woman (Zoe Kazan, also the screenwriter), only for her to materialise in his apartment.

Nicholas Barber is a film critic who writes reviews for the Independent On Sunday and previews for Intelligent Life

Photograph: the young Aurora (Ana Moreira) and her lover Gian Luca Ventura (Carlotto Cotta) in Miguel Gomes's "Tabu"