Tabu: A Story Of The South Seas

Tabu: A Story Of The South Seas

DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Tabu: A Story Of The South Seas

The audio commentary is by R Dixon Smith and Brad Stevens, who did such a good job discussing Nosferatu’s renovated DVD print. Experts on European silent cinema, particularly German, they share an admiration for FW Murnau, who was killed in a car accident days before Tabu premiered in Los Angeles. They call him “a master storyteller” and believe that if he had lived he would have been one of the innovative pioneers of the talkies revolution, but not out of Hollywood studios. Tabu was financed by Murnau himself and later sold to Paramount, who proceeded in making drastic cuts, such as the word “virgin” and scenes in which native girls wore wreaths of flowers rather than T-shirts.

Considering Murnau’s sexual preference, much has been made of the beauty of male bodies, which is particularly relevant early on in the film before the arrival of the “palpably supernatural” figure of Hitu, who “represents a death force that is slowly spreading like the plague” and is compared by Dixon Smith and Stevens with Count Orlok.

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They don’t explain the mystery of Robert Flaherty’s involvement as co-director. Already well known as the maker of the documentary Nanook Of The North, Flaherty filmed the opening shots of Matahi spearing fish from a rock, which looks as phony as a tourist brochure, and then was “relegated to printing up the rushes”. Stevens says that “Murnau had very little respect for Flaherty as a dramatic director”, in which case, why was he there?

Both commentators are complimentary about the restored print. “This must have been very close to what audiences saw in 1931, before the Paramount cuts.” They make the point that “there is nothing Germanic about this, so full of energy, the half-naked men almost anticipating Pasolini.”

They admire Murnau’s “strong sense of filmmaking, this paradise that will soon be lost.” The separation between movement and stillness is complete and the concept that the woman must sacrifice herself for the man is repeated here.

Reviewed on: 12 Dec 2007
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Tabu: A Story Of The South Seas packshot
FW Murnau's tale of love on the run in the South Seas.
Amazon link

Product Code: EKA40229

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.33:1

Sound: Dolby Digital mono

Extras: Audio commentary by R Dixon Smith and Brad Stevens; trailer

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