Raoul Ruiz

Raoul Ruiz – La Ville des pirates AKA City of Pirates (1984)

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City of Pirates
(La Ville des pirates, France/Portugal, 1983)

Raúl Ruiz’s City of Pirates is (de)composed under the sign of Surrealism, with its trust in ecstasy, scandal, the call of the wild, mystification, prophetic dreams, humour, the uncanny. Given the surprising swerves and disorientations evoking Buñuel and Dalí, and the confidence in a poetic discourse recalling Eluard and Péret, one wonders if Ruiz didn’t elaborate his scenario using the Surrealist mode of automatic writing. Troubled, graceful Isidore – Ducasse and Duncan? – is a purely Surrealist heroine, part Ophelia, Salomé, Bérénice, prone to trances, somnambulism, hysterical seizure, contact with the ‘other side’. Her calm violence links her to the real life murderesses – Germaine Berton, the Papin sisters – exalted by Breton’s circle, and by Jacques Lacan. Indeed, Lacan’s notion of a psychoanalysis in which the analyst stays off his patient’s wavelength, inspired by the idea of ‘surrealist dialogue’ in which paired monologues at cross purposes strike sparks of meaning off each other, underpins the scatty trajectory of Ruiz’s own graphomania, snared this time as the tale of a Pirate’s City. Read More »

Raoul Ruiz – La noche de enfrente AKA Night Across the Street (2012)

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On the verge of a forced retirement, Don Celso, an elderly office worker begins to relive both real and imagined memories from his life – a trip to the movies as a young boy with Beethoven, listening to tall tales from Long John Silver, a brief stay in a haunted hotel. Stories hide within stories and the thin line between imagination and reality steadily erodes, opening up a marvelous new world of personal remembrance and fantastic melodrama. A playfully elegiac film from the great Raul Ruiz, conceived to be seen only after his death, Night Across the Street is a beautiful final masterwork exploring the director’s favorite subjects: fiction, history and life itself. Read More »

Raoul Ruiz – La Chouette aveugle AKA The Blind Owl (1987)

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One of Raul Ruiz’s most obscure and enigmatic films, very loosely based on a novella by Sadeq Hedayat, “The Blind Owl”

In French and other languages. (Roughly halfway through the movie, the spoken language shifts from French (with snatches of German and Italian) to Old Spanish and Arabic—both of which are subtitled in fake Old French, but, not in a manner that corresponds to anything remotely resembling a correct translation. )

Jonathan Rosenbaum has said that this films “defies synopsis”.

Recorded almost 20 years ago from a cable broadcast, and obviously poor quality.
Much of the film is very dark, but what we see is Ruiz at his most visually imaginative. Transferred from a Betamax recording. Read More »

Raoul Ruiz – Poetics of Cinema 1 (1996)

From the article linked to above:

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Ruiz’s Poetics of Cinema must be one of the strangest and most interesting works on the cinema ever to be written. While addressing many contemporary issues around the politics of the entertainment industry, globalisation and the powers of audiovisual images, this work also draws on discourses as untimely as ancient treatises on Chinese painting and the 16th century occult theories of Ramon Lull. But perhaps what is most striking about Poetics of Cinema is its composition in which not only diverse theories and reflections are combined but that they are done so frequently in the form of theoretical fictions as delirious as Ruiz’s cinema itself, that completely blur the boundaries between the real and the imaginary, the true and the false. This has led several critics, notably, Christine Buci-Glucksman to make direct links between Ruiz’s aesthetics and the Baroque, rather than more contemporary aesthetic movements such as Surrealism (Buci-Glucksmann, 9-41). As Laleen Jayamanne has pointed out, Ruiz may use the “decorative and stereotypical aspects of Surrealism” but he rejects its underlying metaphysics in favour of a Baroque “allegorical system” (224). The crucial difference between the Baroque, as Ruiz understands and employs it and the ethos of cinematic Surrealism, is the replacement of the motto “everything is fundamentally simple” with its opposite “everything is fundamentally complex”. Jayamanne emphasises that cinema, for Ruiz, is an allegorical system inhabited by ghosts, zombies and the dead, which operates by a “perverse logic” (224) or a “baroque […] multiplication of points of view, of an object, of a space, [of] a body” (225). Already this affinity between the complexity of the Baroque and perversion is apparent: for Ruiz, Surrealism is inferior to the Baroque because it remains too French, or in other words, fails to be complex or perverse enough. Read More »