RAÚL RUIZ Raridades
|Cover of the Raul Ruiz box set
A Chilean who fled his country after a military coup, Raúl Ruiz spent his remaining 38 years in exile making films in French, English and Portuguese. The man kept up a prodigious Fassbinder-like output directing more than 100 films in his lifetime, including 70 features. Before turning to film, he left his studies in theology and law to write 100 plays.
At the time of writing, legitimate websites list 26 Ruiz features for sale, many without English subtitles. You Tube offers others, but English subs are rare. Presumably, an eager devotee could find more in what David Hare refers to as the “back channels”, but there’s still likely to be 30 or more that are difficult to find. That’s a lot of rare feature films from the same director.
|Raul Ruiz (1941-2011)
In his writings (see Poetics of Cinema), Ruiz talks of “cinema as a machine for travel through space and time” and believes “a film is not made up or composed of a number of shots, rather it is decomposed by the shots; when we see a film of five hundred shots, we also see five hundred films”.
Many have described him as a fabulist, and Jonathan Rosenbaum compares his work with Welles’s Mr Arkadin and The Immortal Story as “fabulist forms of address and ‘irresponsible’ production values”. Adrian Martin also raises the spectre of Welles when referring to Ruiz as combining “surrealism, magic realism, hyperreal documentary and French ‘poetic realism’ of the 30s and 40s all mangled, mixed and put into loony overdrive…a gagological Welles”.
Others cite Godard, Warhol, Rivette and Nabokov and you could probably throw in Herzog, Malick and Bunuel, but these comparisons only serve to testify to the difficulty of coming to terms with the breadth and complexity of his astonishing body of work.
City of Pirates (1983)
|City of Pirates
“the story of the impossible love between a maidservant and a child assassin on a semi-deserted island. It is the story of the conflict between a child who ran away and a woman who could be (who should be) his mother, and who oppresses him in a thousand ways. It is the story of a child pushing his mother into committing suicide or into becoming a slave. It is the story of an assassin who hides on an island and who sees his executioner coming to meet him--an executioner in the form of a child who is the exact copy of himself as a child. There are three stories that fuse into one--a free variation on the theme of Peter Pan.”
|City of Pirates
He teams up with Isidore, the grown maidservant, herself a virgin and sleepwalker and possible victim of sexual molestation in order to murder her father and castrate her suitor. They travel to the Isle of Pirates where Isidore encounters Tobi the sole inhabitant, a man capable of becoming the personae of various members of his family.
Isidore is later told by ‘cultists’ (in uniform) that the boy is the prophet Don Sebastian, who manifests in England as Peter Pan, in Denmark as Skallagrimsson, in Russia as Michael Strogoff and on Easter Island as Hotu Matuá. He appears every ten years to kill his entire family “with joy” and now resides inside her as her unborn child.
|'Dental deficiencies', City of Pirates
In one of the Extras, Ruiz discusses the origins of the project: “a film made by using ingredients of the surrealist kitchen”; his interest in Peter Pan; and in “a Jean Genet-esque vision of a child assassin”.
He also tells an intriguing story of a 400-strong pre-Masonic Brotherhood of Pirates who formed a community for more than 50 years in a bay north of Valparaiso in Chile during the 16th and 17th Centuries. Francis Drake and his son were involved, as were corsairs, galleons and buried treasure. Their pirate city was eventually wiped out when 2000 soldiers were sent from Peru to stop them marauding along the coastline. It seems Ruiz is talking here of Coquimbo and La Herradura Bay where a statue of Drake now resides. The two pirate ghosts searching for treasure from their past lives in Love Torn in a Dream (see below) come from this tale.
Love Torn In A Dream (2000)
|Love Torn in a Dream
Inspired by 13th Century Catalan writer Ramon Lull and his work on the art of combinatorial mathematics, Ruiz’s characters, stories and time-frames all begin to interweave and combine with such rigorous precision, the viewer is quickly immersed in a delirious world, losing all frames of reference and becoming subjected to the director’s masterly and playful intellectualism. Adrian Martin describes such a place: “if there is a territory (key Ruizian term) that one can profitably inhabit, it is that shifting, partly phantasmagoric space formed at the intersection of many stages, stories and identities”.
Most of the film is shot in the Portuguese wonderland of Sintra – the idiosyncratic World Heritage Site of 19th Century romantic architectural monuments. It’s a perfect fabulist location for this impish intoxication.
The Territory (1981)
Point De Fuite (Vanishing Point), 1984
Buried in the Extras is this film made a year after City of Pirates and using some of the same locations. It’s an example of the influence of Edgar G Ulmer’s quick low budget style on Ruiz. It also looks, sounds and feels like a 1960s Beat Generation experimental feature. The copy comes from a 16mm print with plenty of projection scratches, occasional hairs in the gate and contrast so stark, when a man who can’t speak uses written notes in close-ups, they are illegible. Spoken in English, French and Portuguese, Ruiz has said after City of Pirates he wanted to make a “wanderer” film, a “film of walk as often does Wim Wenders” and much of Point De Fuite is paced and as understated in its exposition as Alice In the Cities and Kings of the Road.
|Raul Ruiz and Paulo Branco