Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One

Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One ★★★★½

To begin a review of the final volume in Miguel Gomes already-infamous trilogy I suppose I may as well begin by speaking about what everyone wants to know: the widely-hated chaffinch sequence - and indeed it is not the turn-off point that everyone has built it up to be, in fact it's the most consistently engaging sequence of events in a film made up entirely of sequences of events; rivaled perhaps only by the whale story that closes Volume One.

What Gomes achieves most successfully is not in the osmosis of his film into wider culture, but in the osmosis of wider culture (that of Portugal, at least) into his film: I know nothing about Portuguese history and I still know nothing, but the Arabian Nights trilogy creates such a rapport that I managed to comprehend why everything was placed how it was even if I did not exactly interpret the political context. Whilst this made moments over the six hours almost-impenetrable (i.e. the crow segment in the first volume), it made others delightfully playful to uncover.

Even thus, despite being grounded in a typical realism, if this is a journey to be categorized then surely it must be viewed as a fairy-tale above all else, defined best by the defining playfulness instilled in the final volume and a journey which reaches an entirely illogical yet inevitable end.

There is not so much any way of intrepreting what Gomes wants to get across here because he's entirely clear: this is an assault on an impossible situation, and an assault on how cinema treats this. He understands that making art about a situation is not going to change a situation, which is the entire reason he chooses to make art about it. These films are an ambitious prank and one that results in many audience members being turned off right as it reaches the very end. That's exactly the reason I gradually grew to love it, and despite many bumpy inconsistencies along the way (the second volume which everyone speaks about does indeed have some of the best moments of a gigantic runtime but everything that surrounds these moments is too obscure to allow everything to fully hit), Gomes ultimately made the film he wanted to make.

It's just a shame not many people think the same way Gomes does, but in other ways, this helps the film along - the obscurity and undefined emotion is exactly what will turn most people off; and launching into an entirely emotionless sequence will leave them signing off permanently. These are precisely the parts which brought me in.

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