Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anne Chevalier (Reri), Matahi
Written by: Robert J. Flaherty, F.W. Murnau
Directed by: F.W. Murnau
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Silent
Running Time: 81
Date: 08/01/1931

Tabu (1931)

4 Stars (out of 4)

In My Tribe

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If D.W. Griffith created the language of film, he left it up to hissuccessors to add their own personal esthetics. On the short list of thecinema's all time greatest artists belongs the name F.W. Murnau.

Tabu was Murnau's last film before he died at age 42 in a car crash. Born in Germany, the filmmaker had immigrated to America a few years earlier to work in Hollywood, where he made his masterpiece Sunrise. For Tabu, he teamed with the famous American documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North) and set off for Bora Bora to tell this beautiful story of forbidden romance using non-trained natives for actors.

Expert diver Matahi falls madly in love with lovely Reri, just before Reri becomes their tribe's "chosen one," making her off limits ("tabu") to all men. Matahi and Reri decide to run off together, but encounter all kinds of hardship -- forcing Matahi to dive in shark infested waters to find valuable pearls.

Murnau captures an incredibly vivid sense of nature with Tabu, and viewers should almost feel the warm sun, hear the waves and smell the moist jungle.

Former critic and current filmmaker Eric Rohmer once called Murnau the cinema's greatest filmmaker and Tabu his greatest film. You can't get a higher recommendation than that.

DVD Details: Image's new DVD boasts a gloriously restored print, a commentary track by UCLA film professor Janet Bergstrom, outtakes, a trailer, a short film and a still gallery -- more than anyone could reasonably hope for with such an old film.

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