Blog Archives

TSFF Preview: Tabu – A Tale of the South Seas (1931)

tabu-f.w. murnau-toronto-silent-film-festival

This year the Toronto Silent Film Festival will present F.W. Murnau’s Tabu – A Take of the South Seas on March 30. All silent film fans know F.W. Murnau, master of German expressionism and power house of silent cinema. Wait a minute – did I just say German expressionism? That poster for Tabu doesn’t look very German expressionistic. It doesn’t look it, because it ain’t, as my grandma used to say.

Even hardcore silent aficionados and Murnau buffs might be unfamiliar with Tabu. Because Murnau died in a fiery crash shortly after making Tabu, before the film was even released, it reads like an oddity in his filmography. Had Murnau survived, maybe Tabu would be hailed as the turning point in his stylistic development.  But he didn’t and we’re left with Tabu – a footnote in a way (though it shouldn’t be) and a rarely screened silent classic.

Tabu is a departure for Murnau in setting and style, yet not so much in subject matter. Set in Bora Bora, Tabu relates a tragic tale of two young lovers. Reri, is an “untouchable,” forbidden fruit because she is pledged as thesuccessor to the island’s sacred virgin, and Mathai is the young fisherman who loves her anyway.  The two battle to escape the tabu that Reri represents with, well, I won’t say predictable, but not wholly unexpected consequences. It’s a familiar emotional terrain to viewers of Sunrise, but entirely different in rhythm.

Originally, Tabu was a joint effort between Murnau and Robert Flaherty, though Flaherty eventually dropped out. Tabu retains his documentary-like ethnographic approach, however, and Murnau committed to using locals as actors, to dazzling effect. Whatever the woes in production, Tabu is a fresher, more relaxed Murnau, drifting away from his (one might say) obsessive studio stylization to a free, easier style. There is a lot of speculation and postulation that Bora Bora offered Murnau the man a kind of spiritual alternative to heavy-handed European moralism that freed him. It’s difficult to nail that down, because as I noted, Murnau wasn’t long for this world.

Whatever the back story and external circumstances, Tabu is a treat. It is a haunting, lyrical, and beautiful  film from the man who most internalized the peculiar and strictly visual language of silent cinema. I have never seen this movie on a screen with an audience, and I am so pleased that Toronto Silent Film Festival is offering up the opportunity. Get your tickets now.

Screening Details

Tabu – A Tale of the South Seas

Music: Original 1931 release musical track

Friday March 30, 2012
The Carlton Cinema
20 Carlton Street Toronto
Tickets $10.00

Plus: “Animation from the Lawless Days” tba with Musical Interpretation by Bill Lasovich

The Toronto Silent Film Festival Program

March 29 – Our Dancing Daughters

March 31: Blood and Sand

April 1: 1000 LAFFS: Playmates

April 2: The Italian Straw Hat

April 3: Variety

Film Friday | Weekly Roundup

Let’s see, this week I hung out with animators, tried to burnish the image of death-by-suicide Joseph McDermott, whoever he may be, and I told the world how terrible John Carter is. Perhaps I should change my name to Pretty Busy Gal. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “With so much on your plate, how could you possibly find the time to scour the interwebs so I don’t have to?!?” (Insert scenes of Japanese people screaming as the giant fire-hose of information known as the internet, represented here by a large lizard, rampages through the streets.) Never fear, Constant Reader, I will always find time to the surf the web. It’s kinda what I do. Happy reading and happy viewing! Read the rest of this entry

The Artist Won Best Picture and I Partied Like It’s 1928

the artist cast

Hello! If you watched the Oscars last night and decided to check out this whole silent movie rigamarole, welcome! Bien venue! If you’re a loyal reader and you’re just dying to know how the Pretty Clever Film Gal is celebrating… suffice it to say champagne gives her headache but she has struggled through to put it all in perspective. Read on! If you read the blog just disagree with me, boo-ya and word to your mama! Read the rest of this entry

Film Friday | Weekly Roundup

So, first thing this morning, my computer informs me it has VERY IMPORTANT updates to install and would like to install them NOW. I said, no, no… I have a Friday Film Roundup post to write and politely asked it to just hold its horses. Then, when the post was near completed, poof! The computer refuses to wait any longer and shuts down. Well, crud (or something slightly saltier). The good news: I didn’t lose the post! When my obstinate coworker, Mr. HP, finally rebooted, my draft was patiently waiting for me. So I know it’s going to be a fine Friday, with luck and sunshine raining down on me. So let’s get on with! Here’s come good stuff from the interwebs. Happy reading and happy viewing! Read the rest of this entry

Film Friday | Weekly Roundup

It’s been a busy week here at Pretty Clever Headquarters! Exciting things are happening, Pretty Clever Films joined the LAMB, and life is good. Well, there’s one problems, the perennial problem – so many movies, so little time! Though as far as problems go, that’s a great one to have. Never fear, despite my overfull TIVO, Pretty Clever Film Gal has taken the time to round of the best of the interwebs just for you. Happy reading, happy viewing, and let’s get to it!

Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: