190. TABU (dir. Miguel Gomes, 2012) (Hong Kong International Film Festival)
I had no prior knowledge of writer-director Miguel Gomes or his work going into this film, save for hearing that this was one of the most highly-praised yet divisive films of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Apparently references are made to F.W. Murnau’s film of the same name, but having not seen that film they were all but lost on me, save for the fact both films deal with the impact of colonial life and are split into two sections, entitled “Paradise” and “Paradise Lost” (although the segments are named the other way around in Gomes’ film). The film is a portrait of an elderly dame, Aurora (Laura Soveral), living a hermit’s lifestyle in her Lisbon apartment, with only her maid and a nosy neighbour aware of her existence. When she passes away, her two female acquaintances learn about her exotic and romantic life, living in the colonies of Africa and her torrid love affair with a young hunter. Frankly the magic of this film was somewhat lost on me, told through extended flashbacks with recounted dialogue, the film had a Wes Anderson-esque air of pastiche and whimsy that I’m not entirely sure was intentional. Much of it felt like “Steve Zissou’s African Adventure” and only the plight of Aurora’s underused pet crocodile held my interest.