Tabu is the rare movie you can get tongue-tied just trying to describe: a tragic pop pastiche? A lyrical Old Hollywood melodrama projected on a bedsheet? Better to stick with a simple "wonderful." Although the film is as contemporary as any work of emotional urgency must be, writer/director Miguel Gomes has linked Tabu with the past by shooting in black-and-white, at the Academy ratio of pre-wide-screen movies, and he has appropriated the title of a 1931 South Seas–set picture, the fruit of an odd-couple collaboration between Robert J. Flaherty (Nanook of the North) and F.W. Murnau (Sunrise). Like its namesake, Gomes's Tabu is a divided into sections titled "Paradise" and "Paradise Lost." It's also divided between the presiding spirits of Murnau and Flaherty-- both dedicated to recapturing mankind's savage innocence, something very much at Tabu's heart. The first half is a deadpan comedy following the unhappy life of Pilar (Teresa Madruga) in modern-day Lisbon; the second is narrated by the former lover of Pilar’s dying neighbor, sharing the tale of a romance (the lovers played by Carloto Cotta and Ana Moreira) in colonial Africa. The style of "Paradise," the second half, is somewhere between home-movie nostalgia and Tinseltown-jungle kitsch-- Gomes makes the real Africa feel like a Pre-Code Hollywood back lot. Gomes is commenting on two sorts of colonialism: the European colonization of Africa and Hollywood's colonization of the imagination. The result is a work of sophisticated primitivism that finds aching truth in the phrase "The past is another country."