Arabian Nights Volume 2: The Desolate One 

 

Half

 

 

The nature of Miguel Gomes’s experiment in offering three films that could be counted as 

one becomes clearer with Volume 2 despite this being the least successful of the three.

 


Arabian Nights Volume 2

 

Volume 2 of this trilogy starts with the same statement as in Volume 1 confirming that the tales told here are not adaptations of the original Arabian Nights but stories linked to 21st century Portugal. In any case, Scheherazade herself is now cast aside and what follows in this volume are three more tales which can be enjoyed (or not) without any knowledge of what Volume 1 contained. The first item is about a killer whose victims included his ex-wife and daughter and that may make The Chronicle of the Escapes of Simão Without Bowels (the reference is to the killer’s nickname) sound exciting stuff. But this section is markedly minimalistic in style and one could even find here echoes of Béla Tarr’s work. The visuals ensure that it looks handsome but, even if the government’s inability to provide social justice runs as a theme throughout this volume, the support of the public for the killer who sings of his innocence seems strange rather than meaningful.

 

Enigmatic though this tale is, it is more engaging that The Tears of the Judge in which a case about an idiot son regularly molesting his wife leads on to talk of other crimes. The style is surrealistic as everybody giving evidence in court appears to be linked in guilt. But, if that suggests a cross between Lewis Carroll on the one hand and J B. Priestley (An Inspector Calls) on the other, the fact is that this drawn out sequence leads neither to effective absurd comedy nor to drama but to boredom.

 

The big surprise in Volume 2 is that the third main tale, The Owners of Dixie, is a doggie story about a pet moving from owner to owner. Lucky, the animal featured as Dixie, is good enough to remind one of Uggie in The Artist (2011). Even so, and in spite of a suicide pact being involved and social issues not being lost to sight (there are even a whole series of brief social vignettes inserted between the two parts of The Owners of Dixie), it all seems rather slight fare for Gomes. Nor do I warm to a conclusion in which Dixie encounters her ghost self and plays with her, but there are haunting images here and there. However, at 131 minutes Volume 2 is the longest of the three and, despite occasional pleasures, I am thankful to say that Volume 3 would prove to be more memorable.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Crista Alfaiate, Chico Chapas, Luísa Cruz, Joana de Verona, Gonçalo Waddington, João Bénard Da Costa, Teresa Madrugo, Margarida Carpinteiro, Isabel Cardoso, Lucky.

 

Dir Miguel Gomes, Pro Luís Urbano and Sandro Aguilar, Screenplay Niguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo and Telmo Churro, Ph Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Art Dir Artur Pinheiro and Bruno Duarte, Ed Telmo Churro, Pedro Filipe Marques and Miguel Gomes, Costumes Silvia Grabowski and Lucha d’Orey.

 

O Som e a Fúria/Shellac Sud/ARTE France Cinéma/ ZDF/ARTEetc.-New Wave Films.
131 mins. Portugal/France/Germany/Switzerland. 2015. Rel: 29 April 2016. Cert. 15.