Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One Screen 8 articles

Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One

2015

Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One Poster
  • The copious onscreen text in this final volume was a godsend. I laughed and laughed, even though multiple people warned me that The Inebriating Chorus of the Chaffinches is the most tedious chapter. Didn't retroactively redeem the whole, but at least it held my attention.

  • Scheherazade's adventure is a playful tangle of anachronisms. But charm dissipates with the final story, an overlong documentary-style portrait of a working-class bird-trapping community. Tonally, it’s reminiscent of Raymond Depardon’s glum portraits of French rural life, spiked with surreal flashes. If this was Scheherazade’s final story, it would have been unlikely to stave off her execution.

  • ...Interestingly, the flowery title cards continue, popping several times a minute, framing these schlubby, largely middle-aged, mostly working-class men as though they were characters in a story told by Scheherazade. At first, it seems like a joke, until the viewer realizes that they serve a clear purpose. By handing over narration duties to on-screen text, Gomes has freed up space on the soundtrack for the sounds of nature. In essence, Gomes is trying to make the case for the unremarkable.

  • Taken together, Arabian Nights is a film of parts, of sub-parts adopting and abandoning ways of storytelling. It’s a big, shaggy, fatty triptych with plenty of dead time or bland time with occasional moments of grace and brief glimpses of beauty.

  • Arabian Nights is ultimately persuasive as a work of cinematic Shandyism, one where the author's dexterity serves to endorse a view of humanity as a source of endless narrative and revelatory diversions. The trilogy's constellation of local struggles—over a bleating cockerel, access to a public beach, or simple addiction and loneliness—attain an accumulating weight, as the underserved voices of Gomes's Portuguese characters gradually begin to dictate the rhythms of Arabian Nights.

  • Arabian Nights Volume 3: The Enchanted One had me smiling for a good forty-five minutes in a row. After a brief glimpse of Gomes's modern version of Scheherazade in Volume 1, we finally get to spend some time with her in "Baghdad," wandering the landscape encountering lovers and bandits... collecting a series of microscopic tales shown in small sections and exposited in text placed on screen. This part positively glows, rooted in the free smile, easy humor, and great singing.

  • Of course, Gomes recognizes here the limitations of his project, which even at thirty times the length could never voice definitively the needs of the people he wishes to represent. This concession may account for this volume's relative placidity. Its central story, "Inebriated Chorus of the Chaffinches," seems in its reserved style to deliberately undermine expectations of a grand finale, drawing Gomes's gargantuan Arabian Nights to a close with an appropriately nontraditional denouement.

  • It is the most beautiful portion of the entire six-hour “Arabian Nights” project. Full of gorgeous people and vistas, hilarious tangents and washed over with a diffuse longing. Gomes plays with the traditions of the past and the tangible facts of the presents, hoping for a brighter future for his homeland.

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