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on January 8, 2004
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 more relevant when the transfer was made to the DVD format. Compare the scenes on original trailer on the DVD to the same ones in the movie and you'll see that part of the picture is missing.
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on January 2, 2004
PARADISE: Life on the south-sea island Bora Bora is carefree and unaffected by the covetousness of western civilization. The natives fish, frolic about and adorn themselves with flowers and pearls. They treat the passengers of a sailing ship with friendly advance. Hitu, a messenger from a neighborng island comes on a special mission: take home a virgin for the gods: Reri is the chosen - men must not touch her: she is tabu. To break this tabu means death. The natives celebrate this occasion, but Reri and her lover Matahi are desperate. They elope this same night. The entire island is in an uproar.
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. Flaherty contributed largely to the film's qualities. It conveys the feeling of purity and innocence threatened by a "law" that goes beyond human comprehension. The menacing atmosphere is underscored by Violeta Dinescu's new soundtrack (If atonal music causes you migraine you can always turn the volume down). Murnau took one of the young natives with him, back to Hollywood. They died together in a car accident.
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on December 11, 2002
The last film directed by German director F. W. Murnau, before his untimely death in 1931, this is a stunning snapshot of life in the South Sea isles, featuring an authentically Polynesian (and Asian) cast, dominated by a gorgeous village of Tahitian hunks and babes. The cinematography is stunning, but the glimpse into this lost tribal life -- even to the extent that it's a culturally mediated, Europeanized view -- is fascinating. Apparently Murnau and his co-director, documentarian Robert Flaherty, had a falling-out over the direction of the film, and Murnau took the project over. Can't imagine what the tiff was over, but I suppose it doesn't matter, since the end result was such a great film. Although it's a silent picture, some traditional Tahitian music is mixed into the soundtrack, and the folk dancing -- what little of it we see -- is pretty cool, too. I don't know how much training the actors had, but the guy who plays the lead character Matahi, is super-charismatic on screen, and a very good silent actor. Wonder if he did much else after this?
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on October 30, 2002
Among the more beautiful places on our small planet, the South Pacific has long been deemed a living paradise and a favorite destination of lovers and adventurers since the beginning of human history. It has also generated and inspired musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers.
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.
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on September 25, 2002
Image Entertainment has just released the new,uncensored DVD of 1931's "Tabu", the final effort from the complex, multi-layered genius, F.W. Murnau. Filmed entirely in Bora, Bora, a shimmering beach paradise near Tahiti, "Tabu" is a tropical "Romeo and Juliet", Murnau's dark tone poem to doomed love. "Tabu" completes the Murnau canon("Nosferatu", "Faust" and the highly regarded "Sunrise"). While filming "Tabu" in distant Tahiti in 1929, Murnau could not have known that silent films were over. He could not have known that his life and career would soon sadly end. Just 7 days before the New York premiere, his car lost control on the El Cajon grade north of Santa Barbara. Murnau's cinema spoke of tragedy and fate. He could not have known that as Art imitates Life, sometimes Life imitates Art..
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on January 24, 2004
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 matter, & casting) that put it over the top. But make no mistakes, this is Murnau's film. Amidst this cast and backdrop, Murnau brought his technique (the artful expression of narrative thru film images) to its most perfect form. There are barely any intertitles in this film; the pictures speaks almost completely without them. And here in Tahiti Murnau's fascination with the supernatural found poignancy in the exploration of the Tabu of the native islanders. Add to that romance and dancing scenes that are tantalizingly pure and delightful, and in my humble opinion you have Murnau's finest work.
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on January 12, 2003
Considering there is the temptation to regard any film created by Murnau as genius, I have to admit initially feeling just a little underwhelmed by TABU. It's simplicity did not seem nearly as shaded as in other of the master's great works. That is, until I heard the commentary that accompanied a short collection of out takes from the film, included in the DVD. Somehow, hearing the story of this film's convuluted production, of Flaherty's angst, and, especially, of Murnau's own disregard for taboo when building his Tahitian reTreat, added gravity that made the viewing experience completely satisfying. (The short on Reri, the 16 year old 'barefoot contessa" was equally as fascinating.) Now we all look forward to the imminent release of SUNRISE.
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