Chloe Walker, marketing manager at Phoenix Picturehouse, reviews today’s Discover Tuesdays presentation of Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights: Volume 3 – The Enchanted One
Director: Miguel Gomes.
Starring: Crista Alfaiate, Américo Silva, Amar Bounachada Portugal/France/Germany/Switzerland 2015. 125 mins.
Portuguese with English subtitles.
“Where are stories born?”
“They spring from the wishes and fears of man.”
“And what is their purpose?”
“To help us to survive.”
As we begin the third volume of Miguel Gomes’s groundbreaking trilogy, our heroine Scheherazade is growing tired. She has been telling stories to the bloodthirsty king for more than 500 nights in an effort to prolong her life, and, understandably, inspiration is failing her. In a break in format from the other two films, for the first section of this volume Scheherazade is no longer the narrator but the story. Fearing her imminent death, she spends what could potentially be her last day on Earth strolling around the sun-soaked island. She meets a handsome stranger with one blue eye, one green eye and 200 children, a genial thief who loves to dance, and her father, who reiterates the vital importance of storytelling whilst they ride on a Ferris wheel. This segment is arguably the best part of the entire trilogy, uniting all of the tricks that we’ve seen so far – iconoclastic music choices, stunning cinematography, abstraction and wry humour – to create moments that will live in your mind long after the credits have rolled.
Perhaps fittingly, Gomes rounds off his opus with the most challenging story of them all, The Inebriating Chorus Of The Chaffinches. With the exception of a brief detour for the story of Hot Forest (a Chinese visitor has an unfortunate introduction to Portugal), this section completes the volume with what initially appears to be an out-of-place documentary about men training chaffinches for a singing competition. Look closer though, and the story works as a microcosm of all that has gone before: pathos, humour and a scathing critique of what Portugal has become are hiding just under the surface.
You do not have to have seen either of the previous films to enjoy the closing entry in this trilogy; part of Gomes’s genius when it comes to his Arabian Nights is that he makes each volume work both on its own and as part of the larger, six-hour project.
The six hours and 21 minutes of Miguel Gomes’s Arabian Nights trilogy are a cinematic event more than worthy of that mammoth duration. Alternately clever, bewildering, funny, strange, incomprehensible, beautiful and bursting with fury, these films are quite unlike anything seen before – and it will surely be a long while before we see anything like them again.
Arabian Nights Volume 3 – The Enchanted One (15) Tuesday 24 May
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