Perhaps the year’s most ambitious cinematic undertaking is director Miguel Gomes’s (Tabu) breathtaking trilogy of tales that channel the current struggles of economically depressed Portugal through an assortment of tales that range from farcical yarns to grounded accounts of social issues.
It’s here that the Gomes’s trilogy is both at its most playful and focused. Having escaped the palace of the king, Scheherazade explores a seaside landscape where she encounters, among others, a “wind genie” and a daft suitor. In this chapter, it’s as if the historical backdrop, the modern world and the disparate modes of storytelling collapse into one another. Movingly and unexpectedly, the last gesture of Arabian Nights is to scale back its scope and provide a disarmingly modest and poignant grace note on which one of contemporary cinema’s new masterpieces can close.