After drawing raves for the tenderly eccentric “Tabu,” Portuguese director Miguel Gomes is back with a project of even greater ambition and intrigue.
“Arabian Nights,” set to premiere during the Directors’ Fortnight section of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a sprawling exploration of contemporary Portugal with its base in a range of classic fables. It spans six hours, divided into three volumes but set to premiere in its entirety at Cannes.
The newly-released trailer (posted above) lives up to the thematic intensity of the premise and visual poetry of Gomes’ recent efforts. At an extra-long three-and-a-half minutes, this snippet of one of the festival’s most anticipated premieres reaches far and wide, its extensive humanistic focus as clear as its lavishly evocative scenery.
Below are the official synopses for each volume:
Volume 1, The Restless One: “In which Scheherazade tells of the restlessness that befell the country: ‘It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that in a sad country among all countries, where people dream of mermaids and whales, unemployment spreads. In certain places, forests burn into the night despite the falling rain; men and women long to set out to sea in the middle of Winter. Sometimes there are animals that talk although it is highly improbable that they are listened to. In this country, where things are not what they appear to be, men of power promenade on camels and hide permanent and shameful erections; they await the moment when taxes are collected so they can pay a certain wizard whom…’ And seeing the morning break, Scheherazade fell silent.“
Volume 2, The Desolate One: “In which Scheherazade tells of how desolation invaded men: ‘It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that a distressed Judge will cry instead of giving out her sentence on a night when all three moons are aligned. A runaway murderer will wander through the land for over forty days and will teletransport himself to escape the Guard while dreaming of prostitutes and partridges. A wounded cow will reminisce about a thousand-year-old olive tree while saying what she must say, which will sound none less than sad! The residents of a tower block in the suburbs will save parrots and piss inside lifts while surrounded by dead people and ghosts; including in fact a dog that…’ And seeing the morning break, Scheherazade fell silent. ‘Damned tales! If things continue this way my daughter will surely end up with her throat slit!’ – the Grand-Vizier, Scheherazade’s father, thinks in his palace in Bagdad.”
Volume 3, The Enchanted One: “In which Scheherazade doubts that she will still be able to tell stories to please the King, given that what she has to tell weighs three thousand tonnes. She therefore escapes from the palace and travels the Kingdom in search of pleasure and enchantment. Her father, the Grand-Vizier, arranges to meet her at the Ferris wheel, and Scheherazade resumes her narration: ‘Auspicious King, in old shanty towns of Lisbon there was a community of bewitched men who, in all rigour and passion, dedicated themselves to teaching birds to sing…’ And seeing the morning break, Scheherazade fell silent.”
Check out the trailer above. “Arabian Nights” is still seeking U.S. distribution.