Thursday, January 11, 2007

South Seas Cinema: Tabu, a Story of the South Seas

Welcome to South Seas Cinema, a new series of posts about films set in – or pertaining to – Polynesia and the South Pacific.

Tabu, a Story of the South Seas (1931)

For my first review, I’ve chosen one of my absolute favourite films: Tabu, a Story of the South Seas. If you haven’t seen this classic film directed by anthropologist documentary-maker Robert J. Flaherty (Nanook of the North) and German expressionist F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu), then make viewing it a priority. And, if you ever get a chance to see Tabu on the big screen, by all means go!

Shot entirely on location in Bora Bora in the 1920s, Tabu, a Story of the South Seas is one of the most visually compelling films I've had the pleasure to view. In fact, cinematographer Floyd Crosby won an Academy Award for its cinematography. At slightly more than 80 minutes, this poignant black and white, silent film engrossed me and left me longing for more.

Tabu tells the story of two young lovers that are mad about each other, but society just won't let them be. Yes, very Romeo and Juliet ... but set during the late 1920's ... in Tahiti ... with a completely Tahitian cast. All of which makes for some very endearing acting in a movie where everybody's gorgeous and the scenery is breathtaking.

The tragic story still haunts my imagination (I viewed it for the second time over a month ago) - I mean, I’m really not one for love stories, but this one really gets to me. For what it's worth, the film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Tabu was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and has been released on DVD by Milestone Films.

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floratina said...

The late 1920's? That last part really caught my attention. The building in Los Angeles where I live was built then as was much of my neighborhood. I think there was a land boom here in those days and I try to imagine what it was like back then as I shlep along through the streets.

When it comes to films of that era, I think of Keystone Kops, Buster Keaton, etc. It hadn't occurred to me that films of such an exotic nature were being produced back then! How, like, insular of me...

Tiki Chris said...

Yeah the late 20's! It must have been a very exciting time ... innovation in film, architecture, a booming economy, the advent of the jet age, and flappers!

What I didn't realize before watching this film is just how phenomenal and elastic German expressionism is! I mean, the co-director of Tabu was also the mastermind behind Nosferatu.

Thanks so much for your comment,

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