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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Director Profile: Raoul Ruiz, part 0.11

Even though I had heard of him, until recently I had not seen a single film from Raoul Ruiz. Of the almost 100 films he has directed, the only four that were the most accessible were: Klimt (2006), Comédie de l'innocence (2000), Time Regained (1999), and Three Crowns of a Sailor (1983). I decided to start with Three Crowns.. and Comédie de l'innocence.

Of the two films, it was Three Crowns of a Sailor that made the most impression. The structure of the film is a fascinating story-within-a-story. We start off on one level, then we dive into another story, which burrows down to another level. Each story is a hyper-link into another fascinating tale, which leads to another adventure. As the title indicates, a sailor is at the center of all the tales.

There is something fascinating about various port cities. The culture that exists on ports is entirely different from the nation that a port is located in. Most ports are transition points -- people and goods are either leaving or arriving. Everything is in a state of flux. And if one spends too much time at a port, then time could appear to be suspended. Of course, these locations are a breeding ground for some very interesting characters. One is sure to find someone who has been everywhere and seen it all, ready to impart his wisdom. And that is the case with the main character in Three Crowns of a Sailor; he is someone who has plenty of stories to tell. All he wants in return is three danish crowns. Why? Let's just say that he needs the three crowns for more reasons other than just financial debt.

The tales that the sailor spins are a combination of myth, fantasy and pure delight. The concept of the film reminded of the structure contained in The Saragossa Manuscript (multiple level of stories & dreams) or the labyrinths contained in a Borges story. The film is completely alive and it is hard to remove one's eye even for a single second. Visually, the film is a real treat -- scenes are either in rich black and white or in tangy color; the camera angles are very inventive. At different points, the camera is on the ground looking up at the characters, or perched on the shoulder of the sailor looking at the strange ship crew or even placed sideways so that we only see the sailor's side profile as he goes about his ways. The end result is a fascinating film that I wished would never end. But a movie like this can never end really. The film could very well be just a tiny component of an infinite loop that keeps on spinning.

Comedy of Innocence contains elements of memory and ghosts, two things found in abundance in Three Crowns.... But it is a much linear film about a returning spirit taking over a 9 year old boy.

On my part, I need to find more of Ruiz's film that touch upon the mythical territory that Three Crowns.. did. Three Crowns of a Sailor is one of the most satisfying films I have seen this year.

Other reading material:
  • Acquarello discusses a few of Raúl Ruiz's films & book.

  • Girish brings together a collection of links and words about Mr. Ruiz

  • A Sight and Sound interview
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