Miguel Gomes’ playful yet somber third feature cleverly traverses a parable-filled narrative while paying homage to the seductive beauty of cinema from days gone by. Split down the middle into polar but complementary halves, the film begins in “Paradise Lost”–present-day Lisbon–with three disillusioned women at various stages in their lives. It flashes back to “Paradise,” an overtly romantic colonial past embellished with dashing young men and women, forbidden love, and a melancholic crocodile. The discovery and exploration of the connection between the two parts is best experienced through Gomes’ rich and elusive storytelling.
Although the title is a nod to F. W. Murnau’s 1931 film of the same name, it is even more notably an elegy to the entire body of silent movies through its unique sound design, grainy black-and-white 16mm stock, and 4:3 framed aspect ratio. Gomes is a rare talent, with a dry sense of humor reminiscent of the early films of Jim Jarmusch. 2012, 35mm, 118 minutes.