The latest from Miguel Gomes (Tabu, Our Beloved Month of August) Arabian Nights is probably this year’s most ambitious cinematic undertaking, and the most talked about film experience of the last Cannes Film Festival. Arabian Nights uses the framing device from the original Arabian Nights of the beautiful young Scheherazade telling tale after tale in order to keep her murderous husband from killing her—but that’s where the similarities end. Over three features, Gomes channels the current struggles of economically depressed Portugal through an assortment of tales that range from farcical yarns to grounded accounts of social issues.
After opening with overlapping documentary portraits of a shipyard and a wasp-exterminator, the director appears on screen, contemplating his overly ambitious undertaking. From here, Gomes spins a satirical tale about the financial powers-that-be preying on Portugal’s vulnerability. Next up is the comic story of the role a rooster plays in a local election, followed by a sobering triptych of interviews with unemployed citizens.
The first part of the trilogy, Arabian Nights-The Restless One is out in cinemas on Friday.