Arabian Nights

FNC 2015: ‘Arabian Nights — Volume 3: The Enchanted One’ is a loose, humanistic conclusion

In spite of its seemingly monumental ambitions, Miguel Gomes’s Arabian Nights has never been in danger of being weighed down by pretensions. From the opening minutes of Volume One, Gomes has maintained an effervescent tone, albeit one tamed somewhat in the darker Volume Two. Even there, Arabian Nights keeps its focus on its main subject: the Portuguese people, and the ways in which they’ve felt the impact of austerity. As such, Gomes’s film always true to itself and never seems to stray from the director’s vision.

Miguel Gomes’ ‘Arabian Nights’ series puts a new spin on adaptation

As each separate volume stresses in its title sequence, this is not an adaptation of the original book Arabian Nights. While it’s not a surefire adaptation, Miguel Gomes’ series certainly takes a lot from it, including the structure (which the films admit to) and the lead character of Scheherazade.

FNC 2015: ‘Arabian Nights — Volume 1, The Restless One’ is a light-hearted start to an epic

From a simplistic description, Miguel Gomes’s film Arabian Nights could sound unbearably self-important. Taking its name from a foundational collection of folk literature and running at a total of over six hours, the film almost sounds like a parody of arthouse excess. Add in the political goals of depicting life in contemporary Portugal under the pain of its economic collapse, and the mere concept of the film threatens to implode in self-seriousness.

Cannes 2015: ‘Arabian Nights Vol II, The Desolate One’: The inexplicable beguilement of surrealist cinema

Miguel Gomes showed up the Director’s Fortnight screening of the second part of Arabian Nights wearing a t-shirt and Benfica football scarf and started off by rambling about his favourite team’s newly won championship title. Something about Gomes is disarmingly charismatic and sincere – you could tell the rugged look was not an act but rather Gomes was just being himself. And amazingly, despite the thick layers of surrealist imagery and narrative convolutedness, there is a quality in his Arabian Nights enterprise that comes across as unadulteratedly sincere.

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