Pasolini’s final film, the grisly “Salò”, has dwarfed many of his earlier works, but just before he turns away from the beauty of existence, he directs the trilogy of his life. scenery, dirty, naked, ideal bodies, and the art of storytelling. itself. After the parables and metaphors of the two films, Gomes allowed Pasolini’s “Arabian Nights” to influence his image, as well as its structure. As the themes, characters, and ideas of the first two parts begin to resurface, so do the full-bodied women and half-naked beauties straight from the earthly kingdom of Pasolini.
“The Enchanted One” begins with Scheherazade (Crista Alfaiate for the third time) and her father, the Grand Vizier, both filled with regret and longing. The old man wants to free his daughter from her marriage to the bloodthirsty king, and longs for his long-dead wife, whose ghost dances in his mind’s eye. Scheherazade dreamed of the country he would protect, and its many simple people. He leaves the kingdom and meets a diver named Lionel who loves him from afar, the flamboyant wind genie, the bandit Elvis, who steals to live and dance for fun, and the blonde pin-up Paddleman. Paddleman looked like he had swam out of Pasolini’s subconscious, from his curly mop to his rosy skin and slender figure, to his charming wit. When her children asked questions, Paddleman stared dumbly while Scherehazade answered questions her children asked about the nature of the world. Paddleman and Scheherazade discover an archipelago of thieves and listen to the psychedelic Tropicalia at sunset. But Scheherazade knew this peace couldn’t last, and after telling Paddleman he was too stupid to stay (but, she hoped to tell him, “you’re kind of beaming”) he left the archipelago. He had one more story to tell the king.
“The Heartbreaking Choir of Chaffinches” was the last story Scheherazade told. It’s an interesting chapter of the film, but also, formally at odds with everything that came before it, so that it may become a viewers favorite or least favorite chapter, depending on how well the ambling post-modernism of the build-up has sat down so far. The dry objectivity Gomes adopts makes the “Chorus” the least interesting, grammatically, of all the strands of “Arabian Nights,” however, the story of the chaffinches is undeniably rich and tragic.
The birds were found by Portuguese soldiers in the trenches of World War I, and brought home, assuming that their song could brighten the lives of everyone wounded in battle who returned from the front. The training of the birds, drawing specific song forms from each generation of finches, has consumed hundreds of men’s free time since those days. In the ’90s, an entire generation of finches were killed in accidents and the song will never be heard again. Gomes believes that the people who train finches are now haunted and obsessed by the lost song, which is a neat little metaphor for so much culture obliterated by government economic austerity. When one of the birders cries after the death of his prized finches, we know why he lost his cool in front of his friends. The song of the finches is very valuable and unique to each bird. When they died they took the song with them, never to be heard again.
The competition is over, bird champion Chico Chapas(you might recognize him as the killer bandit hiding from “The Desolate One”) playing alone this time, walking home. He met a genie in the form of a 60 year old male who was caught in a net. He frees the man after admonishing him to be careful. Life is smooth. And to prove his point, Gomes hinted at the Langley Music School Project of Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft,” a song many believe the Beatles wrote after they broke up. Someone thought that by teaching children songs, perhaps these songs would outlast their half-life culture. This pursuit propelled Gomes’ cinema. As the grand vizier told Scherehazade, “Anger is not a bad thing, if it is well directed.” This is what prompted Pasolini to make films and what drives Gomes now to create his own Trilogy of Life. He saw Portugal—women, birds, songs, places, mindsets, dream sequences—in danger of being silenced. So, he raised his voice into the air, turning his anger into a beautiful tapestry of past and present, hoping that in the future none of the esoterics that defined the country he grew up in would be lost.
There is a strange feeling created by the branching structure of “The Enchanted One.” The first act, in which Scheherazade meets a different inhabitant of her kingdom—regretting her place as the one who has to tell the story—has two functions. , it captures Gomes’ strong sadness for being the only record keeper in Portuguese history in cinema, or at least, having the highest profile on the international festival scene. If he doesn’t, who will? And secondly, it’s also the most beautiful part of the entire six-hour “Arabic Night” project. Full of beautiful people and landscapes, cute tangents and drifting with longing that spreads. Gomes plays with the traditions of the past and the real facts of the gift, hoping for a brighter future for his homeland.