Filmed entirely in Tahiti, "Tabu" represents an unusual collaboration between legendary directors F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu, Sunrise) and Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North). Two lovers are doomed by a tribal edict decreeing that the girl is "tabu" to all men. While the lovers' flight from judgment and the ultimate power of the tabu are reminiscent of Murnau's expressionist films, "Tabu" is all open air and sunlight, sparkling on the ocean and glistening on the beautiful young bodies of the native men and women. Now available completely uncensored and restored by UCLA, this cinematic landmark is one of the most gorgeous black and white films ever made, and was the 1931 Academy Award winner for Best Cinematography.
Conceived by two master filmmakers, but essentially made by only one, Tabu is the last great silent film (released four years into the talkie era). Few classics have had a more fraught history, starting with the dicey notion of combining the radically different approaches of documentarist Robert Flaherty and supernaturalist F.W. Murnau. After selecting the South Seas locations, collaborating on the story, and doing some preliminary photography, Flaherty withdrew, leaving Murnau to realize this tale of forbidden love and implacable retribution in an earthly paradise. The results, ravishing to behold, complete a spiritual trilogy begun with Nosferatu (1921-22) and Sunrise (1927), Murnau's other films of young couples drawn asunder by phantoms. Floyd Crosby won an Academy Award® for his cinematography. The director himself was killed in a car wreck just before his film was released. All the more tragic that Murnau's original, uncut version was never seen till Milestone Film & Video's restoration in 1990. --Richard T. Jameson
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PARADISE LOST: The lovers reach an island of the pearl trade. Matahi is a born diver and works for the white man. He and Reri enjoy their life to the full. They meet natives who adjusted themselves to wheeler-dealers and mixed racial relations. Matahi treats his buddies to champagne. He does not know the value of money. He signs many promissory notes...The government tries to avoid a conflict between the islands. They set 500 francs on Reri's head, but Matahi bribes the head-hunter with a pearl. Hitu sends Reri a note on a banana-leaf: If she does not return with him in three days Matahi will die. They plan to escape to Tapeete, but when Matahi tries to buy the tickets, the man with the promissory notes calls in his "debt". Hitu comes for Reri, he knows no mercy. She writes Matahi a farewell letter. With the courage of despair, Matahi dives in a lagoon marked: "tabu". Every diver dies here, because a man-eating shark guards the pearls...
Murnau's last work, a poetic mix between feature film and ethnographic study was filmed entirely in the south seas. Only native-born islanders appear in this film. The famous nature-filmmaker R. J.Read more ›
Filmed in 1929 entirely on location on the magical island of Bora Bora, "TABU" is a collaboration between legendary directors F.W. Murnau ("Nosferatu," "Faust" and "Sunrise") and the great drama-based documentarian Robert Flaherty ("Nanook of the North"). Like Romeo and Juliet, young fisherman Matahi and beautiful Reri are two island lovers damned by a tribal mandate declaring the girl off-limits or "tabu" to all eligible males. The young couple run away, but discover that so-called civilization (remember, it's 1929 Tahiti) is not to be their salvation.
This beautiful film literally glows. The drama of destiny and fate is played out by half-naked young bodies that move through the silver light that radiates, reflects and refracts everywhere. It vibrates in the dappled shadows of tropical foliage and dances on the sparkling lagoons, pristine waterfalls and unpolluted beaches.
"Tabu" deservedly won a 1931 Oscar© for Best Cinematography. Sadly, Murnau died in a freak auto accident in the El Cajon pass a week before the New York premier.
This digital edition, thanks to UCLA restoration, is the first time since its original release that "Tabu" has been available in a complete and uncensored print. Significant extras include a surprisingly intriguing audio commentary by UCLA Film Professor Janet Bergestrom, a still gallery, outtake footage, original theatrical trailer and the short film "Reri in New York." Highly recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
I will go against the grain of conventional opinion and admit that this is my favorite Murnau film. I think it was the influence of Robert Flaherty (in regard to location, subject... Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2004 by ixta_coyotl
I really like this film and I appreciate the scholarly approach of the DVD. But with all that, why was not the intregrity of the of the original format -- the frame -- considered... Read morePublished on Jan. 8 2004 by Mark Keith