Arabian Nights, a new series of three two-hour movies by Portuguese director Miguel Gomes (Tabu), kicks off this Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and it'll undoubtedly go down as one of the major cinematic events in Chicago this year. This ambitious political trilogy borrows the structure of the ancient collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian folktales from which the series gets its title. As a result, the series paints an expansive portrait of modern-day Portugal and shows how the austerity measures enacted by the current government have affected society.
The films are at times disturbing, other times hilarious, and occasionally venture into full-blown surrealism. The delightful vignettes tell the stories of Dixie, an adorable dog who passes from one owner to another in a housing project; a murderer who becomes a folk hero as he successfully evades police; unemployed men preparing for a polar-bear swim; a beached whale that explodes; and a rooster that's put on trial for making too much noise. Personally, I could have watched these shaggy-dog stories spiral onward indefinitely.
Anyone who buys a regular price ticket for any feature in the trilogy will get a ticket for each of the other two features at a discounted rate. Ticket info and showtimes can be found at the Siskel Center’s website.