The third and concluding volume of Portuguese auteur Miguel Gomes' Scheherazadean triptych brings this epic to a close with the sound of birdsong and the promise of the ineffable.
Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One
Playing as part of Arabian Nights Trilogy
Thrillingly inventive, wildly ambitious, and as urgent as it is playful, Miguel Gomes' three-part epic Arabian Nights (patterned on the structure of Scheherazade's One Thousand and One Nights) is unquestionably one of the most important — and pleasurable — films of the year. Best viewed in succession and in its entirety, Arabian Nights is an unmissable cinematic event.
The concluding volume of Gomes' majestic, mutating modern-day folk tale finally sees our intrepid narrator, the winsome Scheherazade (Crista Alfaiate), emerge in resplendent physical form, following her brief appearance as a mohawked punk in Volume 1. A lush costume spectacle filled with delightful anachronisms, The Enchanted One opens in a sun-dappled Marseille masquerading as Baghdad, where the Grand Vizier meets with his tale-spinning daughter. Her waning storytelling abilities reinvigorated by a much-needed, romance-filled escape to the exquisite Archipelago, Scheherazade launches into her final tale, which tells of a community of bewitched, working-class bird-trappers who train chaffinches to sing for competition. The most literary and ethnographic of the three films, The Enchanted One transitions from the theatrical, Pasolini-riffing stylings of its first half to studied, documentary observation in its second, while offering a sly commentary on storytelling and its central role in our lives — how it ensures our survival by giving shape to our deepest fears and most fervent desires.
Both wilfully sprawling and gently intimate, Gomes' opus is a moving feat of cinematic freedom that — like the classic tales it evokes — is both of its time and forever enduring. Coming to its wondrous end to the strains of mysterious and plaintive birdsong, Arabian Nights closes with the promise of the ineffable.
Arabian Nights screens as both a triple-bill marathon event and in three separate screenings. Please consult the Official Film Schedule and tiff.net for screening times.