For Reel

City of Pirates (1983)
February 26, 2012, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Raúl Ruiz

Nearly impenetrable, the Chilean-born Raúl Ruiz’s City of Pirates is an often frustrating, but nonetheless rapturous experiment in surrealism. Inside a trunk resides vegetables and a man’s face; a ball hovers around a pair of mourning parents; an apparently schizophrenic apparition uses body language to describe various family members. The dialogue is of little help – as quoted in Janet Maslin’s review from the New York Times, one passage states, “Heinous honey of comets rise from the rose of their tacit conversations.” That the film still fools one into assuming clarity is an astounding achievement. Dave Kehr refers to Ruiz’s narrative structure as a “directed flow”, using the ocean as a metaphor for the way that the characters and plot are in constant evolution and yet are still possessing of definite boundaries. Ruiz’s visual associations are part of what brings the viewer into a transcendent lull, and just as important is the consistency of the protagonist, Isidore, as well as the almost grating, repetitive score. It is revealed that, some time before the picture is set, a family was massacred and a child somehow escaped. Is Isidore one-in-the-same with the child, or was she the culprit? How does the murderous boy that she meets relate to her own history? Does the film address two massacres or one? These questions will prompt varying responses depending on the viewer, but ultimately they are quite beside the point. This is fantasy at its purest. Maddening, sure, but in some, inexplicable way, grounded with a sense of dreamlike coherency.