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  • 4.3
Acclaimed director Miguel Gomes returns with a sumptuous, eccentric two-part tale centered on Aurora, shown first as an impulsive, cantankerous elderly woman in present-day Lisbon. When Aurora is hospitalized, she sends her neighbor, Pilar, to pass word of her grave condition to Gian Luca, a man of which no one has ever heard her speak. Pilar's quest to fulfill her friend's wish transports us to Africa fifty years earlier, before the start of the Portuguese Colonial War. We see Aurora again, this time as the gorgeous, smoldering wife of a wealthy young farmer, involved in a forbidden love affair with Gian Luca, her husband's best friend. Their moving, poetic tale is conveyed through the older Gian Luca's suave voiceover, combined with the lush, melodious sounds of its heady, tropical setting, peppered with a soundtrack of Phil Spector songs.



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"...surprisingly enriching and poetic." - Jay Weissberg, Variety

1 member likes this review

A beautiful film. It zooms in and out of the characters while telling an engaging 2 chapter story. Beautiful cinematography.

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Member Reviews (4)

top reviewer

A beautiful film. It zooms in and out of the characters while telling an engaging 2 chapter story. Beautiful cinematography.

1 member likes this review
top reviewer

TABU: I confess that simply looking at the image of the crocodile on the title page did nothing to interest me in this film. However, from the moment the films starts it begins to captivate. I think that is indeed how this film works; it is a slow captivation. In one of the seminal moments of the film, our young protagonist, Ventura, asks when does a romantic relationship morph into to being "True Love". Indeed, Ventura admits to being a man who has been with many women, who is amazed how Aurora quickly and completely changed his philandering lifestyle to one of commitment.

There is confusion in the early going as to which direction we are going, as we encounter animism, human rights, colonialism, and numerous other neurosis's. While it is easy to get lost in these flashbacks and the geographic overlays, they are also very entertaining and challenging in their own right . I am not sure I ever understood the purpose of contemporary Polish students interacting with Pilar, for example, but it was playful.

If you can get to the narrative of the aged Ventura, the story becomes compelling, and is far more than a simple romance. The old man breathes wisdom, and the scene of him leaving Aurora's grave is deeply haunting. Carlotta Cotta and Ana Moreira display true chemistry as their romance erupts, with Cotta's charm reminiscent of Johnny Depp before his schtick became hackneyed and ubiquitous .

The film is shot in Black and White, which makes the lighting crucial. The African shots, especially in the Savannah have a three dimensional quality that I think must be the skill of the linesman. Ms Moreira's makeup also works extremely well, such that you feel the color of her face, even in B&W. There were many scenes where the costuming was dyssynchronous (kids wearing t-shirts with Rap artists' faces in the 1960's)

The ending is rather abrupt. leaving the viewer with numerous questions. I Didn't truly understand Mario's persona, and was left wondering what compelled him to act; jealousy, honor, or morality. And the crocodile. I am missing something here. For all the time spent with the r reptile, I never really made a clear connection. All in all, it was quite an engaging film, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging romance film.

I wish the true story line could have been introduced earlier so that the initial twenty minutes would have better more comprehensible, but is did create an intrigue that kept me watching. More clarity in the early development, and I would give this a five, but as "read", I will give it 4 stars. Obviously a director who has command of his chops, and I will watch for more films from him.

An unalloyed masterpiece.

The Portuguese colonial experience rendered with nostalgia and nagging guilt.