16.February.2012: The first reviews Miguel Gomes’s Tabu, one of the most eagerly anticipated titles of this year’s Berlinale, are starting to roll in. Sight & Sound’s Nick James calls it a “monochrome valentine to melancholy” before untangling a few of its storytelling complexities. “That it’s the most audacious and intricate film to be seen so far in Berlin’s competition is without question,” he writes, “and to some extent it’s fulfilled the same role here as did Malick’s The Tree of Life in Cannes last year.” Indiewire’s Eric Kohn opens his appreciative review, “A head-scratchingly lyrical immersion into colonialist metaphor and historical memory, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’ third feature Tabu reaches for the dreamlike experiences of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s oeuvre with a bold structure that defies genre specifics…Gomes (Our Beloved Month of August) has made a decisively cinematic work, tapping into classic film traditions while subverting them with consistent narrative invention.”
Tabu is named after the 1931 film by F.W. Murnau (its full title is Tabu, a Story of the South Seas), and this week Fandor is spotlighting one of the lesser known films Murnau made during his expressionist prime in Germany, Phantom. Also featured this week is Big Deal on Madonna Street director Mario Monicelli’s vehicle for Marcello Mastroianni, Casanova 70; Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, a searching portrait of the great Russian filmmaker made by the editor of his final feature The Sacrifice; and Jim Finn’s Great Man and Cinema, a concise encapsulation of Kim Jong Il’s filmmaking aspirations.
The Museum of Modern Art’s annual Documentary Fortnight opens tonight with Mexican director Tatiana Huezo Sanchez’s award-winning The Tiniest Place as well as Jim Hubbard’s history of the ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) movement, United in Anger. Previewing the festival for The Village Voice, Nick Pinkerton writes, “Since early in cinema, a certain breed of panoramic nonfiction film has chased the dream of capturing the scope of human activity somewhere…Documentary Fortnight effectively does this in aggregate, but this year’s robust edition also contains some prime specimens of this voyeuristic ambition in individual films.” He places special emphasis on Abdenland, a “wondrously shot HD film [presenting] a European nightscape of professionals doing what they do, from security guards checking wire fences and depression-hotline operators…to soft-spoken riot police and bier-hall waitresses to a webcam-porn actress who resembles a human animated GIF.”
Babs Stanwyck fans take note: Dan Callahan’s Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman is now out from the University Press of Mississippi. Mark Asch talks with Callahan about the Brooklyn-bred actress (born Ruby Stevens) for The L Magazine. “Stanwyck personalized the standard motions of self-sacrifice by suggesting that she wasn’t trying to please society or please men but to appease her own personal standards or demons” notes Callahan by way of accounting for Stanwyck’s distinct intensity. “She never plays just one emotion or one line of thought in her best work but always has a few thoughts and emotions running on different tracks, and when they collide with each other, they feel like epiphanies, like an orchestra playing.”