Close Up

12 - 15 May 2016: Close-Up on Miguel Gomes


To celebrate the release of Miguel GomesArabian Nights trilogy, Close-Up presents a retrospective of the Portuguese auteur’s feature films, culminating in an afternoon screening of all three volumes of his sprawling, 1001 Nights inspired cinematic odyssey through austerity stricken Portugal. This programme highlights the the breadth and playfulness of Gomes’ oeuvre, from the rarely screened whimsy of his debut The Face You Deserve, to the cinematically playful "post-documentary" Our Beloved Month of August, through the sumptuous ode to silent melodrama Tabu.

"The latest work by celebrated Portuguese auteur Miguel Gomes is a three-part, six-hour epic that takes inspiration from the “Arabian Nights” to weave a sprawling tapestry of tragicomic tales of hardship and humanity set explicitly, and metaphorically, in present-day Portugal. The multiple voices that enriched Gomes’ earlier films Tabu and The Face You Deserve give way to the boisterous chorus of strange and beguiling contemporary folk tales released by his Scheherazade, fables that often spin into the realm of a wry magical realism while inevitably pointing to the underlying story that unites them all: the extreme financial crisis gripping Portugal today. Eschewing any traditional screenplay, Gomes worked over the course of twelve months with a team of journalists to collect and adapt actual stories that took place across Portugal and that somehow refract the austerity measures imposed upon the nation. A poignantly and often absurdist meta-fable of dignity and despair, Arabian Nights gives gravitas and comic grace to the struggles of the working and middle classes so clearly admired by Gomes. A masterful work of cinematic storytelling, Arabian Nights derives much of its visual lushness and overripeness from the dazzling cinematography of regular Apichatpong Weerasethakul collaborator Sayombhu Mukdeeprom." – Haden Guest

The Face You Deserve
Miguel Gomes
2004 | 104 min | Colour | Digital

"In his first film, Gomes unleashes a hyperactive and circular search for lost youth that spirals around a group of almost middle-aged Peter Pan men devoted to obscurely ceremonial games with wild, fantastical rules. Sequestered in a cottage deep in the woods, the friends care as intensely for one another as they do the games that keep them detached from the rest of the world. Gomes’ talent at using music to guide and reinvent narrative and movement within the frame is revealed by the storybook tableaux that recur throughout his delightful debut film." – Harvard Film Archive read more

Our Beloved Month of August
Miguel Gomes
2008 | 147 min | Colour | Digital

"Music inspires the rich emotional range and unusual structure of Gomes’ second feature and its intricate mosaic portrait of the late summer concerts and celebrations that unite the remote Portuguese town of Argantil. Playfully interweaving multiple documentary strands – including one featuring Gomes himself struggling with his producer and crew – Our Beloved Month of August only eventually discovers the extended family band that takes centre stage in the second half of the film and whose secret desires and fears are channelled deep into their musical performances. Gomes’ fascination with the music and landscape of Northern Portugal gives way to a mode of cinematic regionalism that insists on the deep-rootedness of its stories within the local customs and culture." – Harvard Film Archive read more

Miguel Gomes
2012 | 118 min | B/W | 35mm

"After Our Beloved Month of AugustMiguel Gomes returns with Tabu, an engaging, provocative and poetic film set both in Portugal and in an un-named African location. Bearing the same title as F. W. Murnau’s classic Tabu, shot in black and white and taking place at least partly in a distant land, Gomes’ third feature film is divided in two distinctive yet complementary storylines. Whilst the first part, shot in 35mm and in the present time, portrays a society wallowing in nostalgia, the second part, shot in 16mm, goes back in time and plays with history, sound, the concept of linear narration, as well as the ideas of melodrama, slapstick, passion and tragedy. Both parts feature Aurora at two different stages of her life: an older Aurora regrets a past long gone while a younger Aurora dreams of a more passionate life. A virtuoso film, Tabu also offers a reflection on Europe’s colonial past." – New Wave Films read more

Arabian Nights: Volume 1 – The Restless One
Miguel Gomes
2015 | 125 min | Colour | DCP

"Gomes’ opening volume unfolds three unexpected tales about Portuguese life, labour and economic free fall that creatively blend fact and fantasy into vivid fables lurching between hilarious and tragic. A strange magic unites the stories, giving a dream logic and clarity to even their most improbable incidents: a talking rooster on trial for crowing too early in the morning, a mermaid released from an exploding whale, a group of impotent economists seeking a cure. Most touching in The Restless One are Gomes’ documentary encounters with unemployed Portuguese whose sober voices bring a heartrending humanity to his epic project." – Harvard Film Archive read more

Arabian Nights: Volume 2 – The Desolate One
Miguel Gomes
2015 | 131 min | Colour | DCP

"A dark whimsy weaves through the second and most spirited volume of Gomes’ trilogy, which opens with a rollicking and morally disorienting adventure: the escape of a serial killer who gradually becomes a folk hero by eluding the police. The subsequent stories tell of an absurd and seemingly unending trial over crimes that fantastically multiply and the ragged misadventures of a Maltese poodle whose lonely search for new owners in a bedraggled apartment complex gently recalls Umberto D’s neorealist canine." – Harvard Film Archive read more

Arabian Nights: Volume 3 – The Enchanted One
Miguel Gomes
2015 | 125 min | Colour | DCP

"Gomes closes his trilogy with a fascinating blend of delirious fantasy and melancholy poetic realism that travels from ancient Babylon to present-day Lisbon. The Enchanted One refers to Scheherazade, who opens the film by recounting the feverishly romantic tale of the many strangely talented suitors who vie for her affection. The majority of the film patiently follows a team of amateur bird trappers enamoured with their prey to which they teach new songs for a long-awaited competition. Like the fragile birds kept in cages, the lonely workers are capable of endearing magic but remain helplessly cut off from the rest of the world, emblems then of Gomes’ country’s vast potential and precarious state." – Harvard Film Archive read more