I’m thrilled to finally, this weekend (starting tonight, all of you fans) see Miguel Gomes new film Tabu. Perhaps a less-known fact is that the film borrows its namesake and stylings from the era of F.W. Murnau. Murnau’s 1931 classic, Tabu, is a silent, sweeping love story in two parts. In glorious black and white, Tabu and Tabu make known a growing and exciting trend in movies today.
When the Academy recognized The Artist in 2012, a newfound appreciation wheedled movie-goers everywhere. Credit where it’s due, The Artist is a great film. There’s a legitimate fascination in the excited faces and over-the-top attitude an old film projects. When can something be classified, though, as an old film? The 1960’s? The 1970’s? 2000? In the now, when everything moves faster than the speed of a projector claw, objective age isn’t always “old” in appeal; rather, appealingly “old”. On a budget of $15 million, The Artist made back more than $130 million. Murnau’s film was considered a financial disaster, even though (not adjusted for inflation) its $150,000 budget made back more than $400,000. In spite of not finding adjusted figures, I can guess that the film, ambitious and public, made less dent than The Artist. Not speaking for the business of it, but it appears that the homage to “old” is more embedded. It’s an interesting matter that the old, foreign to us Gen Y’s, is popular. It’s not surprising, however, to expect an interest in something that isn’t the dipping standard. The innovation here is born of time, and innovation so-called can’t be old without being new as well.
I don’t think it’s the goal of today’s filmmakers to recreate the classics, but to reshape it for the era. The result, again, of time is that cinema can be given different meaning. Art, in this way, has always been inelastic because we can forever interpret anew. Homage is complicated because of this. It might be hilarious to exaggerate the sexist nuclear family of the 1950’s in Parents, but doing so lends itself to new social ideas; whereas made in the 1950’s, those themes are reflective and perhaps subconscious. I hear so often that preserving history reminds us of mistakes and milestones, and that without it we might forget that we ever didn’t have television. But technology moves so fast that remembering a day when mobile phones just made phone calls is a stretch. Satisfaction is usurped by the edge of new, but that isn’t all true if film can fetishize old-fashioned, and people enjoy it more than ever. It’s a good thing, though, that in our bustling present we can love ancestral filmmakers through our contemporaries.
It’s fine to call this trend a break in the figurative sense, but in a literal way the old-fashioned diversifies modern cinema. For those who might otherwise write it off, Tabu may offer an ironically new perspective. Perhaps they still do write it off, but Academy-ratio, scratchy 35mm goodness teases the eye. Less of that headache anamorphic and more of that timeless appeal.
I hope to see as many familiar faces at one screening or another. So don’t miss out on Miguel Gomes' Tabu, playing at 7:00pm & 9:30pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And of course, check out the trailer:
For those also interested, Guy Maddin has made an incredible impact in the last two decades with his meticulous body of work. His films are more representative of experiment, replication in study of the golden age, but interesting nonetheless! Check it out, especially The Saddest Music in the World.