Arabian Nights: Volume 1, The Restless One
Directed by Miguel Gomes
Every night, in danger of being beheaded, Scheherazade tells King Shahryar unfinished tales to continue them the following night, hence defying his promise of murdering his new wives after their wedding night. Scheherazade tells king Shahryar her stories but these are not those in the book. These are stories based on whatever will be happening in Portugal during the production time of the film. As in the book, these stories will be tragic and comical, with rich and poor, powerless and powerful people, filled with surprising and extraordinary events. This film will be about the reality of a disgraced country, Portugal, under the effects of a global economic crisis.
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★★★★½ review by alphonse on Letterboxd
Rather than a review, this is a short write-up of one of the most brilliant films I've ever seen with the purpose of making every member of this amazing community see this gem. In fact, I am not sure I could ever write anything that would do justice to what Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes achieved with his 6-hour epic that takes advantage of everything cinema can offer and completely transcends the medium with never-seen, fabulous and groundbreaking forms of storytelling and a unique way of using the seventh art as a multi-layered, profound language. Honestly, I have never seen anything like Gomes' three-volume Arabian Nights, it's a unique masterwork that results from pure genius and craftsmanship mixed with ardent passion from the entire crew for both cinema and the project.
Arabian Nights is probably the first movie ever to truly confront the financial crisis we're all facing and it uses my country to show how it affects the people - more precisely the Portuguese people because I am proud to say this is a Portuguese film made with the biggest heart and passion for the Portuguese people, who face the consequences of austerity. But its relevance is so huge and the way Miguel Gomes approaches the whole project is so unique, inventive, witty, honest and passionate that it should be watched by everyone.
Maybe one day I'll be able to write anything coherent about this film, but now I have neither the time nor the strength, the only reason why I'm writing this is because I don't want any of you to miss this unique gem that beautifully appeals both to the heart and to the mind and I couldn't be prouder of director Miguel Gomes, who once again took Portuguese cinema to new challenging directions and to a whole different level.
★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
so... i'm starting to think that Migues Gomes may not be super thrilled with how austerity measures have affected Portugal?
(more on this when i've seen all three chapters, though i'm certainly learning a lot! namely: "IWALU." interest certainly peaked early and then waned through the 2nd and 3rd stories, but there's a lot to digest in both and by "a lot to digest" i obviously mean "voiceover from a rooster" and "an exploding whale carcass.")
★★★★ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd
Finally watched the first part, after seeing the second and third on back to back days at VIFF last October. As I suspected, seeing part one makes me appreciate part three more, as the films' structure becomes more clear: a shift between the real and the supernatural, tangled together in part one, gradually separating and diffusing as the saga progresses. The second film is still my favorite, the only one I really think can stand as a great work all on its own, it's telling though that my favorite section in the whole series is the first half of part three, the most fantastical chapter, while the most stubbornly realistic (the finches) drove me nuts in the theatre. I like those finches a lot more in retrospect (perhaps removed by several months from the tedium of watching them), as a mellow fade out to the whole series, and for their clever callback to one of the stories in part one (the rooster crowing and the finches singing, but for very different reasons). When (if?) they play theatrically here, I'm looking forward to watching the three of them all together in one day. Only then I think can I really get a handle on just what Gomes has done here.
★★★★½ review by Raquel Sousa on Letterboxd
I feel like I should have something to say about this film solely for the fact that I'm a portuguese citizen, but the truth is I was just left speechless.
My first tought after leaving the cinema was wishing that everybody could be portuguese to experience this masterpiece the way I did, but at the same time I wouldn't wish that upon anybody because, well...yeah, go watch it.
★★★½ review by Michael Sicinski on Letterboxd
Already quite possibly the most critically acclaimed film (or films) of the year, this expansive experimental blockbuster trilogy should already be on your radar as a must-see. Gomes is that rare auteur who can communicate righteous political anger with such humor and clarity that even his most strident agitprop comes off as the very model of civilized discourse. As he begins the first film, "The Restless One," with a bit of self-deprecating metacommentary about the untenable privilege of making such a film when Portugal is suffering (and to be honest, I believe Gomes's neurotic-director act must be a jab at Nanni Moretti), he explains his method: put things that are happening at the same time in the film alongside each other, hoping they will form a critique. The Scheherazade structure will be a clothesline of sorts, to permit multiple tales and formats to exist in one film, side by side. And so, "The Restless One" is an excoriating and often absurd docu-fiction about how EU-imposed austerity has actually affected ordinary Portuguese people.
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