All the serious matters have already been talked about, when it comes to the big FIPRESCI winner in this year's Berlinale (which is the critics' award, for those who never heard of it), a Portuguese film entitled Tabu. I will agree in the pastiche statements, the various references to early cinema that produce an unknown hybrid genre (nothing like The Artist, even if it bears some similarities), even though I try hard to stop judging images through those cinema aficionado eyes for a while.
To be honest, I was prepared to sleep during the screening -it was in a half-empty Lisbon cinema where eating an drinking was not allowed (a sacred cinephilic place) and there were, apparently, no subtitles; my Portuguese was good enough for such a visual and self-explanatory film, in the end (thanks god). A bit like a weird dream, which starts off as a surrealist poem, goes on as some dull (always black and white) reality only to transform in an ethereal fantasy in the next corner...and then back to a sad, silent nightmare, Miguel Gomes had a lot of nerve and confidence to pull this off. Beautifully indeed.
What I liked most, except for the cutting and sewing between film genres, epochs and even moods, is the baby crocodile. The whole concept of gift-giving should be from now on, well past Tabu, slightly more controlled, you know. I would never like to receive a crocodile as a gift, one that is wandering around the neighbourhood and brings about trouble. Because, a crocodile will always stay a crocodile, even if it's domesticated; it will eat you (up) in the end, at least metaphorically.
Retro style ambience by the pool, only situated in a godforsaken village somewhere in Africa seems even the more enticing as Portuguese (it could be any other) colonialism resurrects (for the duration of the film) from its grave. I had almost forgotten its existence, personally; it's been a long time I haven't seen The Battle of Algiers or anything similar and sure I know that some people used to suffer and serve some other people, but I was hoping we could all benefit from some eternal sunshine of the spotless mind on this topic; new problems have arisen in any case, not that peace comes the moment when we achieve to overcome one of those. A funny element, the result of a witty inversion is obviously the relationship between Aurora and her maid Santa: whereas in the colony the latter was in the service of her capricious young Madam, back in Lisbon during Aurora's old days things have seriously changed.
I thought that the film was a bit weak and disproportional, still; mentioning a certain baby, then daughter, never to be seen and having an interesting, yet not fully expressive face to carry the best half of the story. Anna Moreira is no good, sorry. When she grows up and becomes Laura Soveral, she is, on the other hand, excellent. Let's not forget Carloto Cotta who is disarmingly photogenic; but, you didn't have to play drums to look cool, darling. Those Phil Spector songs are a tad too much, in fact.
Nevertheless, this is a hypnotizing film. Maybe those ambience sounds from Africa, maybe the voice-over or some other elusive quality pushes you into the pool, where you make friends with crocodiles. You bet you do. And you like it.
*Did I say that Tabu -from another point of view- is just (not) another love story? Oups, I forgot. Now I did.
(Glorious) UPDATE: Tabu is competing for the Lux Prize, the European Parliament Film Prize and is now in the list of the three finalists!