Jordan keeps returning to themes of fairy tale and myth and Byzantium is rich with metaphor and sexual politics, almost overwhelmingly so. Set in a seedy coastal town, where Clara has dragged Eleanor after escaping an assassin, and peppered with flashbacks to a life of degradation at the hands of a British officer (a proudly debauched Jonny Lee Miller), it plays with tropes of the female vampire as icy seductress. Clara is more of a tigress protecting her cub from a hunting party of male predators and her victims are, for the most part, predators in their own right while Eleanor, locked in transition from girl to woman for a couple of centuries, is the eternal innocent who only feeds on the willing like a melancholy angel of death. Clara’s feeding can get a bit messy but Eleanor takes only by consent and leaves them in a state of peace.
Miguel Gomes’ Tabu (Kino Lorber, DVD), not to be confused with Murnau classic, almost defies description. It’s a film split in two parts, the first half set in present-day Lisbon where middle-aged Pilar (Teresa Madruga) falls into a routine that includes checking in on her elderly, deteriorating upstairs neighbor, Aurora (Laura Soveral). She calls for a Mr. Ventura as she dies and, as he tells Pilar the story of their past in colonial Africa of the early 1960s, “Paradise Lost” shifts back to “Paradise,” a dream-like remembrance told in voice-over. There no dialogue in this impressionistic recall of a lugubrious life out of time where days run into months without a change in routines or even weather, but ambient sound (and a soundtrack including Portuguese takes on Phil Spector music) adds to the spell this poetic picture casts.