Tabu (2012)

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Released 2-Oct-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Interviews-Crew-David Stratton Interview with Miguel Gomes (4:54)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Palace Films Collection x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 113:29 (Case: 118)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Miguel Gomes

Madman Entertainment
Starring Teresa Madruga
Laura Soveral
Isabel Cardosa
Henrique Espirito Santo
Carloto Cotta
Ana Moreira
Ivo Muller
Manual Mesquita
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Tabu starts with a European explorer in Africa who, tormented by the death of his wife and seeing visions of her, commits suicide by walking into a crocodile infested river. The scene then changes to Lisbon in the last days of 2010 when part one of Tabu, entitled Paradise Lost, commences.

     Pilar (Teresa Madruga), a devout middle aged woman, is becoming increasingly concerned about her elderly neighbour Aurora. Aurora (Laura Soveral) lives with her African maid Santa (Isabel Cardosa) and spends her time losing all her money at the casino: she suffers from dementia and is tormented by something in her past, maintaining to Pilar that she has “blood on her hands”. Aurora wants to talk to a man named Gian Luca Ventura before she dies, and asks Pilar to find him. Pilar tracks down Gian Luca (Henrique Espirito Santo) in a nursing home, but before Pilar can bring him to her Aurora dies. After Aurora’s funeral, Gian Luca tells Pilar and Santa what happened fifty years before in colonial Africa.

     In part two of Tabu, entitled Paradise, Aurora (Ana Moreira) and her husband (Ivo Muller) have a farm in Africa in the foothills of Mount Tabu. Gian Luca (Carloto Cotta) and his friend Mario (Manual Mesquita) live nearby and meet Aurora and her husband when Aurora’s pet baby crocodile escapes. Aurora is pregnant, but over the course of the next few months she and Gian Luca fall passionately in love. They try to end their relationship, and Gian Luca even leaves the area for three months, but they are drawn back together. As Aurora comes close to the birth of her child, the stage is set for tragedy.

     Writer / director Miguel GomesTabu, is very a different and unusual film. It is filmed in black and white, in the old Academy ratio of 1.37:1, in two very distinct parts. The modern day Lisbon scenes are beautifully crisp and detailed sequences, with dialogue and normal sound effects. Part two is a flashback; the footage is much softer and grainy and this part has no dialogue but is accompanied by a narration and the sound effects, such as insects and engines, are dull and muted. The exception is the music which is loud and clear. There is no score as such in either part and the music, including versions of The Ronettes’s Be My Baby and Baby I Love You, which are vital to the story, are songs within the film.

     Tabu is a hauntingly beautiful and very romantic film about memory, love and loss. The hills and tea plantations of Mozambique are lovingly photographed courtesy of cinematographer Rui Pocas, who also composes some beautifully staged tableaux. The second part of Tabu is essentially a silent film which emphasises the fantasy nature of the events; these are the memories of an old man recalling the love of his life and this filming technique does distance us from these voiceless characters, and the actors. This part of the film, of vistas and drama, could have overshadowed the first part, but it is to the credit of Teresa Madruga and Laura Soveral that we are drawn into the lives of these people who are no longer young. And where part two is dialogue free, part one includes a beautifully written and delivered one take monologue by Laura Soveral that tells us so much about Aurora and her demons, although we may not realise its full potential at that stage.

     Tabu is a very romantic film about memory, love and loss. It is beautifully photographed and compellingly acted and is a treat for those who enjoy cinema that succeeds in trying, and achieving, something unusual.

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Transfer Quality


     Tabu is a black and white film presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, close to the original 1.37:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

     I have read that part one of Tabu was shot in 35 mm film and part two in 16 mm to give the different textures. Certainly part one is sharp and crisp, finely detailed in luminous tones of black and white. Blacks are absolutely solid, shadow detail excellent. Part two is far softer, with substantial film grain making it look like old black and white newsreels, which enhances the beautiful vistas of the hills and plantations of Africa. Blacks in this part are also solid, shadow detail a little less clear. In both parts brightness and contrast were consistent.

     There was slight ghosting with movement against the tall grasslands, some aliasing on the curtains (74:47), the odd fleck and some shimmer with the closing titles, but nothing serious.

    Burnt in white English subtitles are clear and easy to read. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors.

    The layer change was not noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a choice of a Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps or Portuguese 2.0 at 224 Kbps.

     Dialogue (and the narration) was clean and clear. During part one the surrounds were sparingly used for crowd and vehicle noises and some ambient sounds, including weather. I only noticed the sub-woofer when there were New Year’s fireworks. Not that it was needed otherwise. In part two, where the narration was preeminent, the surrounds and rears were silent except for some slight insect sounds, chants and the music.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

     There is no score as such, only music integrated into the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


David Stratton Interview with Miguel Gomes (4:54)

    Part of an interview plus film clips. Gomes speaks, in English, about his intentions for the film including moving back away from realism to a more innocent cinema, and the two distinct halves of the film. Short but interesting.

Theatrical Trailer (2:07)

Palace Films Collection Trailers

     Elena (1:52), Monsieur Lazhar (2:11), Beloved (2:18) and The Loneliest Planet (2:02).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 2 UK DVD has a second disc with two short films by Miguel Gomes (20 and 28 min) but nothing relevant to the film. The Region 1 US NTSC version of the film has no extras. I guess the short films would be interesting, yet as it stands our release has the only extra, however short, which gives some insight into Tabu.


     Tabu is a treat for those who enjoy filmmaking that is different; a hauntingly beautiful and romantic meditation on memory, love and loss, filmed in black and white in the old Academy ratio of 1.37:1.

     The DVD has luminous black and white visuals, the audio is fine. A trailer and short interview are the extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, June 13, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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