Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One Screen 11 articles

Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One

2015

Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One Poster
  • these "tales" genuinely seem as if they've been hurriedly improvised by someone reacting to a bare snippet of news... I double-dog *dare* fans of these pictures who marvel at its alleged political urgency to explain what this segment reveals about Portugal and its austerity measures. Or, failing that, to make a case for it as superior storytelling. Gomes openly despairs of being able to accomplish both goals at once, but I'd have been satisfied with competence at either. Didn't get it.

  • While I'll hold off on a detailed write-up until after I've seen the third installment, part two was funnier and more accessible than part one, and included darkly comic segments centered on a frustrated judge and a dog who's passed from owner to owner. The canine is described "as much a love machine as he was a forgetting machine," a sentiment that any pet owner will recognize.

  • Stories within stories within stories, the film, despite its limitations—each two hours, plus or minus, they each contain a certain amount of tales, and then come to an end—in this structure not only is freed to rove Portugal for the rich, odd incident, but suggests a project with an unquenchable thirst and an unlimited supply.

  • As a work of art, The Desolate One is entirely conceptual, imposing an overarching framework on its stories purely as an exercise. This is cinema as experimental math equation, with Gomes plus-ing the basic template of One Thousand and One Nights and Portugal's financial crisis to equal, well, nothing concrete beyond scant, absurdist musings.

  • The crushing social impact of Portugal’s recent austerity policies remains the running theme here, though “Volume 2” features less stinging rhetoric than its predecessor, as whimsical satire gradually segues into observational tragicomedy. It remains to be seen on what note Gomes chooses to end his mammoth undertaking, but it’s already among the most stirring, stimulating works at this year’s Cannes fest.

  • What a jump in quality! With this second part, Miguel Gomes seems more focused. He settles into his material. He’s comfortable enough to allow room for silence, for pauses, lingering on shots instead of hurrying to the next one, and the next.

  • "The Tears of the Judge," a long, elaborate sequence that details an unconventional trial at which every attending onlooker proves culpable in the crime, is especially stirring and strange, proceeding with a nightmare logic and, in contrast to the vigor of the first episode, a pleasingly somnambulant mood.

  • “The Desolate One” hangs together the best of the three chapters of “Arabian Nights” and feels the most coherent, the most touching, and perhaps the most accurate a representation of what it feels like to live in Portugal during the financial crisis. Gomes invites us in to his smoky, shabby yet hopelessly gorgeous home and waits for the power to go out, the water to run black and the landlord to hammer an eviction notice on the door.

  • Miguel Gomes's Arabian Nights (which was shown in Bangkok last month) is actually a three-part film, each running for two hours, a hard-hitting and yet fabulous fact-fiction hybrid that looks at the impact of Portugal's economic woes. Instead of submitting the whole six-hour film, the Portuguese director chose the second part, the most eccentric and perhaps most heartfelt of the three.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Thirza Wakefield
    April 01, 2016 | May 2016 Issue (pp. 71-72)

    This is some achievement: to have made each story completely different from the next and from the story that precedes it... Arabian Nights seems to say that the effects of policy – legislation meant to liberate Portugal of its debts – can look 1,001 different ways depending on the lens, depending through whose life we see economic reforms refracted. The triptych's wending unpredictability appears to contest the kinds of forecasts used to justify punitive austerity measures.

  • Like the first volume, the film requires an investment on the part of the audience. But the cinematic language in which Gomes is working is immersive rather than strictly narrative. And as such, the occasional lapse of concentration hardly matters.

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