For Reel

Mysteries of Lisbon (2010)
January 15, 2012, 7:41 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Raúl Ruiz

Weaving a labyrinthine narrative of tangential flashbacks-within-flashbacks, wherein the secondary characters of what has come before become the key figures of intrigue in their own stories, Mysteries of Lisbon, the last feature Chilean master Raúl Ruiz completed before his death, casts a spell that is easy to become lost in. And what a rapturous place this is to lose your bearings. To explain the intricacies of the plot – which is nothing if not convoluted – would be a challenge I am unworthy of pursuing, but at the center of the proceedings is an orphan boy who early on learns that his mother is a countess. “Center” is the appropriate word, as the boy’s identity is obscured somewhere within all of the love-triangles and jealous rages that are byproducts of his mere existence. With cinematographer André Szankowski, Ruiz achieves an aesthetic that recalls Ophüls, with an ever-moving camera that gracefully shifts from room-to-room, as well as surrealistic touches accomplished with a split-diopter lens and extreme low and high angles. As easy as it is to lose grasp of who is who – these are characters who often assume other identities – one gradually becomes accustomed to waiting for key revelations, which not only reframe the narrative but illuminate the often confounding behavior of the characters. Fittingly, the film concludes with still more, and even bigger questions, once again evoking the transcendent flexibility of purpose that permeates through every frame of the picture.

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