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New on Video: ‘Tabu: A Story of the South Seas’

Tabu: A Story of the South Seas

Written by (Told by): F.W. Murnau and Robert J. Flaherty

Directed by F.W. Murnau

USA, 1931

Compared to John Ford’s studio-bound—though still highly appealing—South Seas adventure The Hurricane, recently reviewed here, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, directed by the great German filmmaker F.W. Murnau, is a patently more realistic and wholly distinctive production. Aside from its genuine French Polynesian locations (Bora Bora and Tahiti), Murnau’s silent 1931 film features a cast consisting almost entirely of actual island inhabitants, rather than Hollywood stars, thus resulting in a generally less strained authenticity. Not necessarily a better film for this reason alone, Tabu, even with its fictional plot, is nevertheless a purer and more revealing historical and scenic document.

Directed by Murnau and “told by” he and renowned documentarian Robert J. Flaherty (of Nanook of the North [1922] fame), Tabu is divided into two chapters.

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