jueves, 18 de noviembre de 2010




3—Harnoncourt, Savall, De Sabata, Erich Kleiber, Mengelberg


5—Carlos Kleiber, Leibowitz, Reiner

6—Harnoncourt, Walter, Reiner, Böhm, Monteux, Klemperer, Cluytens, Carlos Kleiber

7—Carlos Kleiber, Toscanini - NY Phil, Karajan - Viena, Reiner

8—Karajan 62, Casals, Gardiner, Walter

9—Harnoncourt, Herreweghe, Mengelberg, Furtwängler

martes, 2 de noviembre de 2010

Raoul Ruiz: La vocation suspendue (Interview)

ADRIAN MARTIN: Both Suspended Vocation and The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting are based on the works of the writer-artist Pierre Klossowski.

RAÚL RUIZ: Klossowski is not very French, if you know what I mean. Of course, he’s French because of his family ancestry; it’s an old Polish family which came to France in the century of the Napoleonic wars.

Klossowski is deeply connected with French culture, but he never felt comfortable in this culture. He was always very interested in Spanish and Italian culture mainly, and of course classical culture. But these aspects were more or less ignored in France.

I discovered Klossowski really by chance, reading his novel Suspended Vocation while waiting for a friend in a library. Then I bought the book and thought it was very strange. It has the form of a future book that never comes.

This book talks about all the quarrels inside the church, of different factions in the Catholic church. This was not very different from the discussions and quarrels inside the Left movement in Latin America. Which is not so strange when you think that this movement was composed of ex-Catholics. They transposed old Catholic quarrels into the Left; this is one of the ways you can read the political movements in Latin America.

I was, of course, fascinated by this and, when I started working on the novel, Klossowski was so surprised that I wanted to do it. We talked about how we could do it, and we became friends. I wanted to make something with the whole body of his work, so I wanted to make a documentary of sorts. But he was quite shy and timid about it, and did not want to work on that.

I was interested in the novel because part of the work is a combination of perversity and theology, mostly inside the form of perversion as a philosophy. I am much too Catholic to accept that. I prefer to work with the other kind of perversion, with the Catholic perversions, with the theological nightmares and institutional nightmares. I was most interested in how institutions work, how an institution is ideology plus bad faith.

AM: What does Klossowski think of the films you have made based on his work?

RR: He likes Suspended Vocation a lot. He didn’t like The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting very much.

AM: You often refer to Klossowski’s idea that the unconscious is something that happens between people.

RR: One of the reasons I became interested in Klossowski is because he created one of the most powerful critiques of identity, of personal identity.

The idea you mention seems to me to be very evident, and at the same time very strange. It’s that you are never you; you are always somebody else with another person. You are not the same person with your wife; your unconscious changes when you are with a friend, or when you are buying your newspaper. You are changing identity all the time.

It was crazy, but it was a central element for me to think about working with characters, with the non-existent characters of the cinema. Later, Klossowski told me he never said that; that maybe it was a misunderstanding. But I’m sure he told me that.

Raoul Ruiz

I became interested in the grandes frescos when I was making The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting, and for the first time I studied the official painting of the nineteenth century, the peintres pompiers. This characteristic representation of the rise of democracy and capitalism is common to both France and Britain. I became interested in all forms of official art, including socialist realism, and for the first time I saw painting as an actual site of political struggle.

Perhaps the persecution of artists – or the importance they are given in socialist countries and at times of struggle elsewhere – is a form of economy, concentrating the struggle in a symbolic way. As a result, I became more respectful of such work and its significance.

So there is the question: What kind of official art? Is it to be political art reflecting the aspirations of the state, or is it to be the model of a future state? And there is also the question of dissident art, which is not official and therefore not art. I tried to learn more about official art and this led me to make the Handbook of French History, which is a two hour compilation drawn from the very worst of the French television grandes frescos dealing with French history.

This stereotypic history has three sources in France – Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Jules Michelet – and it seems to be the first strong expression of a history that goes from primitive tribes to the perfection of society, with a succession of heroes as the key figures.

Interestingly, the stereotypes are the same as in Latin American history, and the idea of the ‘invention’ of Latin America is not far from the virtual invention of France that occurred in the nineteenth century. Now everyone knows who was good and who was bad, and the films that were made by Communists and right-wingers are exactly the same, with the same themes of unity, the conjunction of power and centralism, nationalism.

I think there has been a real drive toward centralisation of the Latin American continent, which is analogous to the unification of France. Or perhaps the Latin American movement was a parody, since they even named the battles after European battles: Bolívar called himself Caesar and referred to his battles as Thermopylae, Waterloo, Trafalgar and the like. But if we call this a parody, we must remember that a parody is a very mysterious thing.

Raoul Ruiz: Combat d'amour en songe

This is among the most amusing, vertiginous, insolent, outlandish, delirious films imaginable. And perhaps, as well, the freest that Ruiz has ever made. It’s the kind of project where he’s absolutely free in his actions, conceiving and taking control of the film’s totality; in the exercise of this paroxysmic energy he pushes the exercise of his boundless creative imagination to its zenith, unshackled in any respect by the dominant codes.

Here, the familiar features of Ruiz’s universe – parallel worlds, baroque uncertainties, telescoping of different times, co-presence of multiple spaces, deconstruction of characters, transgression of every parameter of classical narrative – are subject to an overflowing enthusiasm and gamesmanship, causing spectators to forget their usual reference points and drawing them into an intellectual and perceptual intoxication where there is no longer anything stable to hold onto.

But we must not conclude that the film proceeds from the pure arbitrariness of an unbridled imagination. Quite the contrary, and this is the first great paradox to be emphasised: nothing, here, is left to chance. The internal construction of the narrative follows a very strict logic; the totality is calculated on the basis of preordained constraints (a little like certain writing experiments of the Oulipo group) that govern its development.

So, at the outset, we have the template of a combinatory narrative attributed to Ramon Lulle, explicitly laid out in an incredible prologue. Nine narrative themes (in principle autonomous, heterogeneous) are posed as the raw material of this combinatory: the story of a theology student of the past, seized by doubt; a thief who gets his hands on a kleptomaniac mirror capable of making anything that it reflects disappear; the confusions of the owner of a painting that is blessed with magic powers; the quest for twenty-two lambs and a Maltese Cross which, once put together, allow one to live in several worlds at the same time; a religious debate bearing on the conflict between grace (or predestination) and free will; two pirate ghosts searching for a treasure that, in a previous life, they hid too well; a present-day student who discovers, on the Internet, a site that predicts his immediate future; two separated lovers who meet in their dreams; and a young Iberian Catholic from a past century finding out that he’s Jewish (and the bearer of a ‘hidden name’) at the very moment that his father is taken away from him.

From there, the entire combinatory consists of making these cellular narratives cross each other’s paths, whether two by two or three by three, and also consecutively – each of these telescopings engendering, almost automatically, a specific narrative (one which logically implies that the characters can double or reincarnate themselves, leap time frames, and belong in several places at once).

Putting it another way: if there is an element of the fantastique in Ruiz, it is not the negation (or the excess) of a rational system, but literally produced by that system; fantasy comes initially from the nine chosen themes but, beyond that, each sequence obeys inviolable constraints, which only serve to intensify the fantastic.

Raoul Ruiz: La chouette aveugle

This film is a tricky object: it slips between your eyes. It’s hard to know how to write about it, what angle to take. One could say the same of certain films by Renoir (The Woman on the Beach), Mizoguchi (The Empress Yang Kwei Fei) or Preminger (Bonjour Tristesse). But with those films it’s a question of an almost ascetic classicism, aiming to render the result as smooth as possible, without any sign of effort – to the extent that some people have taken these masterpieces as works of no interest, cold and academic. Here, it’s the exact opposite: an uninterrupted succession of visionary effects, including many that are bloody and shocking. But these asperities are so numerous and so frequent that they end up creating a new formula, a second-degree smooth surface, for which I can find virtually no equivalent in cinema history. This impenetrable character is due, above all, to the treatment of the story and, on another level, the nature of its significations.

At the start, however, the structure seems traditional and reassuring: straight away we see the main character, who we will follow through to the final shot (apart from some absences in its second part). This protagonist gives us in voice-off his impressions and comments on the action. So the spectator has someone to attach himself to, to identify with. We encounter here a principle common in crime or fantasy film (and fiction): the recourse to a sole protagonist, a promoted narrator, allowing the audience to introduce itself more easily into a strange world. Any more direct contact with the unusual universe of Ruiz would be completely disheartening.

Such identification, however, is hardly exploited to the hilt. Quite simply because the actor, Jean-François Lapalus, gives this protagonist a lifeless appearance – a banal face, somewhat bloated, a little too much like the ‘average young Frenchman’ – which is almost caricatural, forbidding identification, just like his infantile reactions (he ceaselessly repeats, ‘I want to return to Paris’) and his spinelessness (he lets himself be slapped in the face and spat on without reacting). Above all, he is more than anything a guiding thread: we follow him, but we resist being him. He’s far too mediocre ... The conception of this figure recalls the narrator in a film Ruiz made five years earlier, Three Crowns of the Sailor, which itself makes direct reference to the sailor in The Lady from Shanghai – minus Welles’ charm as an actor.

The narrator starts out as a projectionist in an Arabic cinema in Paris (Belleville, where Ruiz lives next to two former Arabic cinemas, the Berry and the Bellevue). He finds himself confronted with unusual facts: for example, his fellow projectionist Kassem, who permanently sports a balaclava with a hole in it (so he can smoke), designed to hide the burn marks on his face. We can’t see them but (as he informs us) they are worse than the wounds on his hands – which, as one shot shows us, are rather nasty. The narrator frequently watches the Oriental films which he projects, with their lascivious dances and trashy exoticism. At the film’s twelve minute mark, our hero tells us that he had an atrocious dream. In fact, this so-called dream is no more oneiric than the images which precede it – like the unknown young woman who pokes the torso of sleeping narrator with her fingers, or the strips of flesh which fall from Kassem’s face.

All through the film, there are three categories of images – reality, dream, and projected movie – and Ruiz never stops looking for ways to confuse them. Moreover, the dream is influenced by the movie screened. Both dream and movie are characterised by their Oriental context, which is also not absent from reality (the Arabic cinema and Kassem). It becomes increasingly useless and impossible to tell them apart. During this incoherent, contradictory dream, a young woman dies in the hero’s bedroom – an event for which he is not responsible. However, as ‘she had only come to my place on the condition of not being spotted by anyone’, our man places the corpse (which he has cut into pieces) in a trunk, which he then carries on foot in the street, then in his car towards a forest, where he hurls it in the river.

At the forty minute mark, the hero, seen in bed, confirms in voice-off that he is feverish and delirious. So it has clearly been a dream, although we might doubt this for a moment because of the length of the episode (almost half an hour), its traditional crime-story schema (the process of hiding a corpse), and certain extremely prosaic, realistic lines (that famous ‘I want to return to Paris’).

But we immediately set off elsewhere. The sick hero makes clear: ‘Allah had taken pity on me. There was a chance to start a new life.’ We then see a bearded youth, thin and half naked, scarcely French at all in appearance, at the edge of the water and in a forest, fully lit. Is this a reincarnation? One can imagine so. Is it a dream? The facts shown are not especially oneiric. In the playing out of this sequence, at the fifty minute mark, a dance scene takes us – with the continuity created by a new common language, old Spanish – into a sumptuous Grenada palace, populated by Arabs who strongly resemble those we have seen in the projected movie. The actors in the movie, the reincarnation, the dream and the reality are sometimes the same. But without this being explained, as in the type of film which switches between present and past (or dream, as is the case in Christian Jacque’s François 1er, The Woman in the Window and René Clair’s Les Belles de nuit). Just when we come to think that we are either in reincarnation or dream mode, we realise that we are inside the projected movie, since we suddenly see the lights of the projector and our hero, who looks into the theatre from the booth (as before), declares: ‘I didn’t need to watch the film anymore’ – although it has marked him sufficiently to be the sole source for his dreams. This part of the film is centred on the richness of exotic fantasy.

Certain significations are expressed directly by the voice-off. The principle is defined in the formula, ‘We lose our minds because all is two, except Allah who is one’ (the formula gets more complicated in the case of twins: ‘One becomes two and two become one’). This principle covers everything that exists: this explains the reincarnation of the hero as his contrary. Joined by his uncle, who sticks with him for the greater part of the film, he suddenly discovers that he himself is uncle to a nephew who emerges unexpectedly and who, moreover, is hardly any younger. The eye of the dead oxen corresponds to the eye of the woman. A brief shot of an immobile extra is followed – same framing, some costume – by a shot of his skeleton, then a shot of the narrator. As for the woman cut into pieces in the trunk, ‘each of her members from now on inhabits the body of my uncle’. When he throws the trunk in the water, nudging it away with an stick, it isn’t the woman’s moan he hears, but a masculine voice that can be attributed to the uncle – but also to himself, since the narrator was the first, in an earlier scene, to offer this characteristic complaint: ‘In my chest, three hearts beat.’ (This scene offers one of best sound inventions in a film that is very rich on the sonic level.) This game is extended infinitely in every scene of the film, reflecting the basic, theoretical hypothesis: ‘I walked all night, only to realise I had hardly moved.’

Such losses of identity have all the more force given that the central character and the narration of facts were so well defined at the film’s outset. The identity of a thing plus its contrary: this systematic mix-up also affects time, as the staggering final address testifies:

I understood that a single day had unfolded, and in the space of this day I had aged forty years. A day, or maybe a month and a day, it matters little – present, future, day, month, childhood, youth, old age ... All these are merely hollow words to me. My life, perhaps I should say our lives amount to a single, uniform season perpetually re-begun. In a single day, a single place, we can live all the days of our life – but we are condemned to re-live them endlessly.

Certainly, one can claim that this all amounts to a gratuitous aesthetic game. But this kind of game is extremely rare in the artistic domain, and rarer still within the context of cinematic expression. This exceptionality must be noted. And above all, the principle is pushed to its peak, since each moment of the film offers us a new, completely unexpected application – which no one could mistake for mere repetition.

Better still, what might appear a game is only a discreet, modest, polite way of clarifying the relationship of man to the world. For it is hard not to have ever felt this impression of identity-loss, of the vanity of definitions, during one’s life. If we had to summarise contemporary art, we could suggest that it offers man a way of seeing, and accepting, his own nothingness. Here, such an acceptance is worked via a two-pronged process: a maximum presentation of attractive, bizarre or shocking elements, as well as a maximum refutation of the veracity and depth of these elements. The emotion created by this refutation is even stronger than that created by the spectacle. Ruiz’s reductive effort hits a level which is difficult to imagine: after the making-marvellous that arises from the oriental fairy tale, valorised a contrario by a slow leave-taking or abandoning of the naturalistic and miserabilist elements, we are surprised by successive annulments, which leave us, by the end, faced with nothing, a nothing increasingly emphasised with each scene, a veritable mountain of Nothingness. I’ve now seen The Blind Owl seven times, and I know a little less about it with each viewing.

A madhouse, a joke, a trompe l’œil ... of course, but to the nth degree. It’s a film which doesn’t leave the spectator unscathed: it drives you crazy. Moreover, it constitutes a special challenge to critics. It is rather symptomatic that a work of this sort has no right to even a single mention in the press. I would have to confess that it’s the film which has given me the most difficulty in my entire time as a critic. This very text you are reading strikes me as an impossibility par excellence – thus giving me extra motivation to write it.

If I had to furnish a comparison, it would be with Duras’ Destroy, She Said or, better still, Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating – a film about theatre as The Blind Owl is about cinema. The reference isn’t gratuitous, since Rivette’s film was co-written by another Latin American, Eduardo De Gregorio (Argentinean, not Chilean like Ruiz). The Blind Owl can be understood more easily if one has read Borges, Cortázar, Bioy Casares and a few others. The first person to have doubled a character across two actors is, moreover, a filmmaker in the Mexican mode, Buñuel in That Obscure Object of Desire – followed closely by Merry Go Round, another Rivette-De Gregorio collaboration: the crucial renewal of cinema in contemporary times has come from Latin America.

It may seem surprising that I place these references above those furnished by the film’s credits. The Blind Owl was originally a short novel written in 1936 by Sadegh Hedayat (1903-1950). (1) But, in truth, Ruiz draws relatively little from this source: the uncle who rises suddenly from who-knows-where, the permanent covering on the face, the skylight that is perceived, the lines concerning corpses, the animal carcasses at the butcher’s, the eye detached from a body; as well as the narrator’s sickness, the woman who suddenly dies in the hero’s bedroom, and the long transference of the body, the principle of struggle between the two rivals. Ruiz ignores the book’s basic premise: the narrator’s difficult relationship with his wife, who sleeps with everybody except him. And he adds everything concerning the projected movie and the picture theatre, which is not to be found in Hedayat.

Certainly, there is one external common point: the narrator’s vision, and the world he perceives, harbour a strangeness common to both novel and film. But the difference is major: Hedayat’s universe is marked by neurasthenia and, it would seem, schizophrenia (the author killed himself). We are not too far from Kafka or Tarkovsky – but at the other extreme from Celine and Julie. With death, the narrator sees above all the hope of nothingness, but dreads the chance ... of a second life. He dies, while Ruiz’s hero passes through all these tests like a zombie, quite indifferent to reality’s lack of meaning. Ruiz’s luxuriant aesthetic, and his comic touches, give the film an exuberant character absent from Hedayat – a man of implacable moroseness.

Hedayat, like Ruiz, situates himself in an Oriental context. But while the Iranian anchors this context in a miserable daily reality, for the Chilean the Oriental world is opposed to a daily French reality, and draws upon a traditional kind of exoticism, facile but seductive. There are as many differences here as between the Orients depicted by Naruse and Sternberg – whose taste for placing vegetation in the foreground reappears in Ruiz.

The very title is never justified in Ruiz’s film, except in its sheer formal beauty. In Hedayat, it is just barely explained: the narrator compares himself to an owl, and alludes to a hermetically blinded skylight. Ruiz seems above all to have wished to profit from the cover provided by the fact of adaptation: few people know of Hedayat, and it’s easy for them to automatically attribute all the weirdness of the film to this apparent ‘cult novel’. Moreover, the credits are ambiguous: shortly after the title comes this mention: ‘The Condemned, freely inspired by The Blind Owl, and by Condemned Through Lack of Faith by Tirso de Molina.’ This is the first time that credits have ever cited source material as far apart as a 1936 Iranian novel and a 1625 Spanish play! A cosmic will accrued by the recourse to five languages (French, Spanish, Arabic, German, Italian) – and even more than five languages, once the film’s unusual subtitling of unheard words begins. The whole thing, filmed by a Chilean, is a French film, or rather a regional film, since it was shot in Le Havre and produced by the local Maison de la culture – the kind of project that usually concerns itself with regional problems and gripes ...

The borrowings from Tirso are more punctual, and are situated in the film’s last third: they concern a perfect Catholic who has followed dogma in the purest way, and who is thus sure of going to heaven. However, this lack of humility means he will be refused entry, while a sinner who committed evil his whole life gains his ticket to Paradise because he repented at the last second ... What’s more interesting in Ruiz is not so much the representation in dialogue of this seesawing game, but rather the insertion of a purely Christian problematic into a specifically Arab and Muslim context – something debated by seventeenth century theologians. Imagine the strangeness of a Mauriac among the Ayatollahs ...

Once, I wanted to watch The Blind Owl on a Secam player, but only had a Pal cassette. So, no colour. A few seconds later, I realised that it was absolutely impossible to keep watching. I couldn’t see or follow anything! Previously, I had watched many colour films on my black and white set without too many problems. But I realised that, of all the films I know, The Blind Owl is truly the one for which colour reception is utterly indispensable.

I am certain that if Ruiz only made one film every two years, like everybody else, The Blind Owl would have been an event.

The Blind Owl offers a series of very diverse formal elements, superimposed without annulling each other – a true inverted pyramid – achieving an aesthetic apotheosis: it is at once an enormous joke and a cosmic, existential work on the human condition. We are not terribly far from Smiles of a Summer Night. And rarely has a film’s ending provided such a succession or simultaneity of contradictory elements – mixing the extremes of pessimism and joy – or a summit quite so bewitching and extravagant. This finale is part of what makes The Blind Owl French cinema’s most beautiful jewel of the past decade.

Raoul Ruiz: L' Île au trésor

Jim Hawkins vogue vers l'île au trésor. L'enfant s'est embarqué avec le docteur, sosie de son père; Timo, le poète anglais; le très français capitaine du bateau et Silver, l'ancien marin devenu cordonnier, spécialiste d'une recette de cuisine particulière – il sait faire les omelettes sans casser des œufs. Silver est à bord avec toute sa bande de mercenaires (entre autres, Jean-François Stévenin), et Jim, au détour d'une cheminée d'aération, surprend leur projet de mutinerie. La nuit, il quitte le navire avec ses amis et ils sont bientôt recueillis par une goélette, dont le capitaine vient justement de faire prisonnier ... les mutins du premier bateau!

Le capitaine de la goélette est un amateur de littérature qui en vient vite à évoquer son roman favori: Benito Cereno. Melville y raconte comment des gardiens se font passer pour des prisonniers, et des prisonniers pour des gardiens ... à moins que ça ne soit l'inverse ... Le docteur s'inquiète, regarde par un hublot: oui, les prisonniers de tout à l'heure ont encerclé la cabine, et Silver rappelle tout le monde à l'ordre: à votre tour de descendre dans la cale.

Le ‘retournement de situation’, chez Ruiz, n'est jamais une solution narrative mais toujours une façon de montrer les deux faces d'une même médaille, ou ici, puisqu'il s'agit de trésor, d'une même pièce de monnaie. Que les prisonniers soient aussi les gardiens, et vice-versa, ne nous mènera à aucune conclusion mais à un simple mouvement circulaire: tête-à-queue entre les deux bateaux, entre les rôles de chaque groupe, entre L'île au trésor et Benito Cereno. ‘Les lois changent tout le temps. On peut faire un jour une chose parfaitement légale et se découvrir criminel le lendemain. On ne va pas en faire une histoire,’ dit un personnage au début du film. Pourtant oui: il s'agit d'en faire une histoire, un genre d'histoire.

Tout l'art de Ruiz tient à ce que cette mathématique du retournement, qui pourrait boucler et bloquer les pistes narratives à l'infini, ne soit jamais prise au sérieux dans son abstraction formelle (elle ne décide pas, par exemple, d'un système de montage) mais devienne l'obsession d'un personnage qui, échappant aux contradictions, en assure comme une fuite continue et réussit encore par-dessus tout à construire un récit. Jim Hawkins court de la terrasse de l'hôtel aux grottes qui lui servent de fondation, du grenier au sous-sol, du cadavre de son père à son père vivant, subit toutes les versatilités – tout ce que son autre père appelle, en ressuscitant dans un grand tremblement de terre: des instabilités – sans jamais tomber. Les pièces du trésor tournent en l'air, recto-verso, pile-face, et Jim, bonheur d'enfant, tient le cap.

Mais qu'est-ce qui le fait tenir? On dit de Janus, le dieu à deux têtes qui regarde en même temps devant et derrière, vers l'avenir et vers le passé, qu'il fut l'inventeur des bateaux. Ruiz, amoureux d'histoires de marin, n'est pas sans ignorer cette origine mythique et prête à Jim une double figure, d'abord sous son aspect filmique le plus ordinaire, la voix off. Jim/Melvil Poupaud a une autre voix que la sienne, celle d'un acteur plus âgé, Jean-Pierre Léaud, qui regarde par son passé avec Truffaut vers l'avenir du jeune acteur (Poupaud, comme Léaud avec le réalisateur des 400 coups, a fait une dizaine de films avec Ruiz, depuis l'enfance). Puis Léaud apparaît, jouant un écrivain en panne, une sorte de proto-Stevenson qui ne cesse de dire à Jim qu'il l'attend, lui, pour se mettre enfin à écrire.

Jim et l'écrivain entretiennent ainsi des rapports confus de gémellité et de préfiguration, de complicité et d'hostilité qui offrent une autre version des rapports de contradiction et d'inversion informant la majorité des personnages. Silver, lorsqu'il fait son omelette, cuit les coquilles vides mais intactes au milieu des jaunes et des blancs battus: tous les autres personnages de L'île au trésor sont ainsi les uns pour les autres, coquilles et œufs côte à côte, des incarnations de fonctions pleines, refermées sur elles-mêmes, qu'un jeu narratif divise pour mieux les remettre ensemble sur le feu (les deux pères, les deux capitaines, les deux mères etc.).

Jim et l'écrivain, eux, sont deux faces bataillantes d'un même être, Janus tiraillé sur la ligne du temps, qui ne fait pas des tours mais des va-et-vient, ‘passé’/’avenir’, ‘fiction’/’écriture de la fiction’, jusqu'à ce que l'écrivain gagne et affirme à la fin, off: ‘Je suis le seul Jim Hawkins.’ Mais c'est la même voix que l'on entend depuis le début et l'on sait que derrière, dans le noir, le visage de l'enfant veille encore pour maintenir leur Janus sur la ligne.

Raoul Ruiz: 5 films

Colloque de chiens, 1977
[Dogs' Dialogue]

Dogs' Dialogue opens to a shot of an abandoned dog that has been tied to the structural frame of a discarded piece of broken furniture at a derelict open field, territorially barking to ward off an unleashed, stray dog hovering nearby. The image of vicious, primal social interaction carries through to an idiosyncratic visual transition: a sequence of photographic stills presented against the thoughtful, expressive voice of an off-screen narrator (Robert Darmel) as he recounts the tragic tale of a little girl taunted by her classmates who accidentally learns one day that her mother is in fact not her biological mother. The traumatic revelation would inevitably mark the young heroine's life as she confronts her biological mother in an attempt find to the reason for her rejection only to discover even more heartbreaking evasion and ambiguity in her parental identity. Unable to find closure, Monique (Silke Humel) runs away to Bordeaux in order to escape her past and falls into a reckless, sordid, and emotionally vacuous existence as a prostitution and later, as a kept woman to a wealthy older man. Driven by a pathological attraction towards ephemeral and transitory affection, Monique would stumble through a series of meaningless affairs until an encounter with a television repairman named Henri (Eva Simonet) from her hometown seemingly offers her a glimpse for the possibility of a respectable, normal life away from the streets.

Recalling the photographic fictional essays of Chris Marker (most notably, La Jetée) infused with the tongue-in-cheek, sexual role-reversal chamber melodramas of R. W. Fassbinder (most notably, the staged, hermetic insularity of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and In the Year of 13 Moons), Dogs' Dialogue is a wryly overwrought and vertiginously intricate, yet intelligently constructed austere comedy on identity, longing, and inextricable destiny. Reducing character interaction and narrative progression into a series of highly formalized essential images supplemented through explicative third-person narration - a playfully synthetic and intentionally self-conscious distillation of the role of the actor that the filmmaker would subsequently re-examine in his integration of tableaux vivants in The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting and Genealogies of a Crime - Raoul Ruiz presents an insightful (and incisive) exposition on the deconstruction of performance in the narrative and thematic development of a film. Ruiz juxtaposes recurring, interstitial active footage of leashed and caged barking dogs and aesthetically (and oppressively) commodified urban landscape of sidewalk barriers, multi-directional road signage, and architecturally identical (and visually interchangeable) high-density residential complexes against the film's drolly convoluted and infinitely recursive plot (from a script co-written by Nicole Muchnik and Raoul Ruiz) in order to create an intrinsic sense of claustrophobia and inescapability that reflects the characters' own circumstantial entrapment, anonymity, and existential limbo. It is this pervasive sentimental inertia and illusory search for transcendence that is invariably revealed in the static, lingering snapshots of the dissociated, archetypal characters: a subtly reinforcing image of transitory validation captured within the ephemeral frames of an alienated and impersonal conventional motion picture.

L'Hypothèse du tableau vole, 1978
[The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting]

An off-camera narrator is invited at the request of an unnamed art collector (Jean Rougeul) to study a series of seemingly innocuous paintings for which impeccably constructed tableaux vivants (a theatrical performance art that literally translates as 'living pictures' consisting of formally staged re-enacted images using live, statuesque actors) by an unremarkable nineteenth century artist named Frederic Tonnerre had once caused the artist to run afoul with French authorities. As the narrator critically surveys the six stylistically and thematically dissimilar paintings in search of potentially controversial characteristics that may have led to the exhibition's notorious reception and premature closure (and to Tonnerre's subsequent prosecution), the collector repeatedly interrupts the narrator's train of thought by tersely, yet adamantly proposing that there are, in fact, seven paintings involved in the ill-fated exhibition. The collector then presents his elaborate case for the existence of the unseen, 'stolen' painting using Tonnerre's similar media of artwork and tableaux vivants, as well as a salacious period novel to prove his own hypothesis, and examining several subtle, cursory details illustrated in the six extant paintings. Mapping an allusive (and invariably complex) trajectory through the unusual artistic embellishments within each painting, the collector contends that the curious details, in fact, provide visually associative cues that link the artworks together and point towards a sinister convergence - the depiction of various stages of a clandestine ceremony - a fragmentary window to a medieval ceremonial puzzle that has been deliberately left incomplete and indecipherable with the absence of serially critical missing link: the undefined (and indefinable) fourth painting.

Inspired by the idiosyncratic personality of author, theorist, and artist Pierre Klossowski whose densely cerebral erotic fiction was influenced by such notorious literary figures as the Marquis de Sade and the excommunicated surrealist Georges Bataille, as well as Klossowski's final novel La Baphomet, The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting is an indelibly haunting, endlessly fascinating, and maddeningly abstruse composition on Pirandellian ambiguity and the inherent subjectivity of perspective. Raoul Ruiz's ingenious use of baroque, compositional tableaux vivants that intrinsically meld static art and corporeal physicality creates a blurred delineation between reality and fiction that, in turn, conflates the multi-layered existential relativity between subject and viewer, operating as both an aesthetic evaluation of the paintings and as a psychological portrait of the eccentric logic behind the conspiracy-obsessed collector. (Note a similar narrative permutation in Ruiz's surreal whimsical fable, Love Torn in Dream.) Ruiz further fuses art and reality by visually creating an equally ominous atmosphere from the perspective of the collector (his perception of the existence of the covert medieval fraternity of the Order of the Knights Templar that was denounced during the Inquisition for charges of occultism and demonology) and the audience (the cognitive aberration implicit in the collector's knowledgeable and articulate, but monomaniacal hypothesis) that is also manifested through the exquisitely formalized chiaroscuro lighting of both the collector's residence and the tableaux vivants. Ostensibly presented through the conventional narrative framework of a complexly interwoven mystery, the film evolves into a sublime and intricate exposition on the reflexivity between art and life, the indefinable essence of artistic creativity, and the inexactness of personal interpretation.

Trois vies et une seule mort, 1996
[Three Lives and Only One Death]

A cleverly composed, prefiguring episode in Three Lives and Only One Death shows Mateo Strano (Marcello Mastroianni) in simultaneous, tripartite images (in a similar vein as Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad and Lina Wertmüller's Love and Anarchy) through mirrors and split-screening as he continues to awkwardly fidget with his necktie even after a secondary point-of-view shot indicates that he has already placed his hands on the dinner table while waiting for his wife, Maria (Marisa Paredes) to return to the room. It is a logically irreconcilable moment that punctuates Mateo's already bizarre story that he recounts to the reluctant André (Féodor Atkine), a polite stranger whom he intentionally engages in conversation at a local bistro: the abstracted old man's explanation for his inadvertent abandonment of his wife years earlier after impulsively renting a larger apartment on a nearby street one day, only to discover that tiny, demanding fairies inhabited the strangely morphing apartment - unanticipated roommates that would subsequently consume his time and attention (not to mention, household goods) over the next twenty years by modulating his own experienced reality. However, the fantastic - if not mad - tale would prove to be only the first in a series of strange phenomena articulated by an unnamed radio personality (Pierre Bellemare) who further narrates equally inscrutable events of a mild mannered professor of negative anthropology, George Vickers' (M. Mastroianni) withdrawal from society and his relationship with a compassionate prostitute named Tania (Anna Galiena), the unexpected change in fortune of a struggling, overly affectionate young couple, Martin (Melvil Poupaud) and Cecile (Chiara Mastroianni) who mysteriously inherit a chateau with an instinctually bell-trained butler (M. Mastroianni), and a wealthy industrialist, Luc Allamand (M. Mastroianni) whose seemingly ideal life with his beautiful young wife Helene (Arielle Dombasle) turns into upheaval after a self-actualized, imagined crisis.

Three Lives and Only One Death captures the whimsicality and droll, tongue-in-cheek humor that pervades Raoul Ruiz's densely structured, organically fluid, and elaborately conceived, baroque cinematic puzzle-fables. Ruiz sustains the film's playful illusionism and deliriously absurdist tone through sublime trompe l'oeil (literally, to deceive the eye) compositional effects: deceptive mirroring angles and reflection shots; seemingly static camera perspectives that capture shifting distances and tracking between objects (the walls of Mateo's apartment, and Tania's increasing proximity towards her husband (Jacques Pieiller) upon inspecting photographs that illustrates her growing interest in reverting to her sordid, former life); inanimate objects that appear to move and transform (note the wallpaper that comes to life at the sound of Maria's voice - who is ironically wearing a similarly bold print blouse while singing - that serves as an oblique reference to the colorful, over-coordinated mise-en-scene and costuming of Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). Presenting a logically tortuous and (appropriately) fractured narrative from the point-of-view of a psychologically imbalanced, yet prominent, successful, and charismatic protagonist, the film becomes an existential, modern allegory on identity, role-playing, and social multiplicity.

Généalogies d'un crime, 1997
[Genealogies of a Crime]

A voiceover narration recounts an ominous, ancient oriental tale of a young man who was destined by the stars to kill a woman from the family of Liu Bao and who, in the aftermath of the commission, was sheltered from communal justice by a mysterious, accommodating woman. However, as the bizarre story unfolds, his new benefactor (and lover) is revealed to be the ghost of his victim who had reassumed a physical form in order to be able to exact retribution on her cold-blooded murderer. It is a strange scenario that is seemingly replayed with eerie semblance to an event one stormy night at an unidentified chateau in present-day France as a young man named René (Melvil Poupaud) scurries away from the vicinity of a woman's lifeless body in an upstairs lounge, turns out the household lights, and attempts to dispose of a bloody knife in a nearby vacant lot. Days later, his legal defense is referred to a perennially unsuccessful attorney named Solange (Catherine Deneuve) - a woman reputed to have a sentimental weakness for advocating hopeless cases - who receives the notorious assignment from her supervisor Mathieu (Jean-Yves Gautier) on the same day that she discovers that her own son had perished in a motorcycle accident. Perhaps motivated by René's peripheral resemblance to her late son, or having struck a sympathetic cord in the overwhelming evidence alluding to his guilt - including a purported eyewitness account by a respected psychotherapist from the elusive Franco-Belgian Psychoanalytical Society named Georges Didier (Michel Piccoli) - the adrift and emotionally distant Solange agrees to defend the evasive and casually indifferent young man, a fateful decision that would inevitably draw her into a strange, interconnected web of secret societies, judicial cover-up, and justified unaccountability.

Raoul Ruiz creates a deliriously irreverent, exquisitely intricate, and modern-day comic fable on predestiny, human will, and folly of manipulative (and exploitive) psychological study in Genealogies of a Crime. Using immediately identifiable signature shots of elegantly sinuous tracking, baroque stylization, shifting perspective (through variation in focal length), and odd angle framing (particularly ceiling shots that suggest a machinistic, overarching point-of-view), Ruiz creates an indelibly tactile and immersive surreality that retains the serious-minded intellectuality and (often excessive) analytical deconstruction of modern psychology even as the filmmaker's agile camerawork provides a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek whimsy to the characters' humorless pedantism and paranoia: familiar Freudian elements (most notably, in the recurring references to eggs, transpositions of words, and in the interior monologue, free association of lipstick), elaborate role-playing (through counsel interviews, psychoanalysis, and staging of tableaux vivants), and formulation of conspiracy theories (through covert, ethically questionable tactics employed by the competing psychoanalytical societies represented by Didier and Christian (Andrzej Seweryn) in the name of scientific research). In the end, it is Ruiz's sophisticated, intelligent, and infectiously playful anti-intellectualism that transforms the seemingly rote psychological drama on instinctuality and compulsion into a sublime and effervescent exposition on the interconnection between art and life, the foibles of rationalized, amoral behavior, and the innate recursiveness of human history.

Ce jour-là, 2003
[That Day]

Auspiciously set in the nebulous and indeterminate milieu of "Switzerland, in the near future", Raoul Ruiz's eccentric, surreal fable opens to the shot of an abstracted and dotty young woman named Livia (Elsa Zylberstein) sitting on a park bench overlooking a fog obscured dirt road that is curiously located near the entrance of the San Michelle mental health institution. While jotting down a series of random, fleeting thoughts into her journal, she meets a cyclist who is abruptly thrown from his bicycle and, convinced that he is an angel (since, as her idiosyncratic theory goes, all angels on earth have fallen), proceeds to explain that tomorrow is destined to be the best day of her life, or rather - as she corrects herself - the most important day, which she comes to realize is not the same thing. Soon after the encounter, Livia is whisked away by her faithful and devoted servant Treffle (Jean-François Balmer) and brought home to the family's country estate where a crowd of snide and unscrupulously calculating relatives amass near the front steps awaiting her father, Harald's (Michel Piccoli) return home to celebrate his birthday. The morning of Livia's fateful day, December 28, arrives with the ominous news that a psychopathic killer, Pointpoirot (Bernard Giraudeau), has escaped from San Michelle (aided in part by a nefarious, enigmatic character named Warff (Féodor Atkine) who has a dubious task in mind for him). Detouring briefly from his assignment by visiting a pharmacy in order to pick up a digital blood glucose test monitor, the seemingly fastidious Pointpoirot arrives at the secluded estate, followed in dawdling, lukewarm pursuit by a pair of under-motivated police officers, Raufer (Jean-Luc Bideau) and Ritter (Christian Vadim), who decide to bide their time at a nearby café instead (whose owner, Morelli (Jacques Denis), acquiesces to Harald's fickle whim to ban a ubiquitous bottled seasoning called Salsox from the restaurant). Left to her own devises after Harald schemes with her brother to send the protective Treffle away for the day, the naïve Livia observes Pointpoirot calmly shaving through his reflection on a glass paneled door and soon invites the complete stranger inside the home, unwittingly setting off a grimly bizarre chain of events in Harald's opulent but forbiddingly desolate chateau.

Unfolding with the atmospheric and drolly sinister tone of a seemingly conventional murder mystery, Ce jour-là is a mischievously imaginative, deliriously hypnotic, and whimsical exposition on compulsion, personal will, greed, and destiny. Shot primarily from the idiosyncratic perspective of Livia and Pointpoirot - protagonists whose outward geniality and personal eccentricities also reveal a tenuous grasp of reality - Ruiz nevertheless retains the film's overarching structure of off-balanced surreality within an absurdist narrative structure through isolating (almost hermetic), but inconstant and vacillating points-of-view and elegant camerawork: the resplendently fluid, levitating tracking shot as the camera shifts focus from Livia to the San Michelle patients' bicycle ride; Pointpoirot's literally warped and hallucinatory vision as he suffers from an episode of hypoglycemia; exaggerated and deceptively shifting camera depth within the Harald estate (particularly hallways) that obscures referential position and reinforces visual (and individual) subjectivity. Deceptively framing the conundrumic moral fairytale within the familiar and accessible structure of a noir whodunit, Ruiz boldly illustrates his indelibly sophisticated and iconoclastic cinema of malleable logic, puckish wordplay, wry humor, and elaborate conspiracy.

Raoul Ruiz: L' hypothèse du tableau volé

Ein "gestohlenes Gemälde" wird im Titel von Raoul Ruiz' "The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting" genannt. Und obwohl die entwendete Malerei an sich nach Krimi klingt, ist eben jener Film alles andere als die detektivische Suche nach dem verschwundenen Gemälde. Das absente Gemälde, so erklärt es uns die einzige Hauptperson im gesamten Film, ein namenloser Kunstsammler, ist Teil einer Kollektion von insgesamt sieben Bildern, die im 19. Jahrhundert von dem Maler Tonnerre gestaltet wurden. Als Einzelbilder wenig Aufsehen erregend, seien die sieben Gemälde im Verbund Grund für einen handfesten Skandal gewesen, der sogar zu der Verfolgung Tonnerres geführt habe. Bis heute ist es ein ungelöstes Mysterium, warum ausgerechnet diese Gemäldeserie derart schockierend erschien. Der Kunstsammler wird uns in den folgenden Filmminuten seine Theorie nahe legen – und diese stützt sich grundlegend darauf, dass eben eines der Bilder, das besagte siebte, aus der Kollektion entfernt wurde, um den Kontext des Ganzen zu verwischen und die erzählerischen Binderglieder innerhalb der Bilderfolgen unmöglich rekonstruierbar zu machen.

Tonnerre, der Maler unserer Aufmerksamkeit, hat nie existiert. Er ist nur eine fiktionale Figur, die, zusammen mit einigen kunstphilosophischen Thesen den Büchern Pierre Klossowskis entnommen ist. Ruiz und Klossowski arbeiten ursprünglich eng an "The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting" zusammen, bis letzterer sich kurzfristig nach Spanien absetzte und Ruiz einen ganz eigenen Film fertig stellte, der nur noch grob auf den Theorien des Schriftstellers basiert. Klossowski, der vehement die Kunst als Realitätsabbildung verneinte, findet nun gerade in Ruiz' perfider Ausgangssituation Reminiszenz. "The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting" kann durchaus als Mockumentary bezeichnet werden: Die Geschichte erzählt sich fast ausschließlich durch den Interviewstil zwischen dem Sammler, gespielt von Jean Rougeul, und einem Erzähler, der sich aber außerhalb des Filmbildes aufhält. Eventuell ist das Kamerabild sogar der subjektive Blick eben jenes zweiten Mannes, der, ebenso wie wir, Gast im Hause des Sammlers ist.

Um hinter das Geheimnis der sechs, beziehungsweise sieben Kunstwerke zu kommen, ließ der Sammler die Gemälde als "tableau vivants" inszenieren: Eine Reproduktion eines jeden Gemäldemotivs durch lebende Personen. Die Darstellung beschränkt sich hier jeweils auf den durch die Malerei eingefangenen Moment: Alle "tableau vivants" in Ruiz' Film zeigen nur jenen erstarrten Zeitausschnitt, den die Originalbilder vorgaben. Dafür aber mit viel Detailgetreue. So wandert der Sammler durch eben jene "lebendigen Bilder", pickt Details und kleinere Informationen aus den Kulissen und Akteuren heraus und bespricht die Verbindungsglieder zwischen den einzelnen Bildern, um schließlich eine mögliche Drama-Interpretation anhand eines anrüchigen Romans aus dem 19. Jahrhundert zu spinnen. Geredet wird dabei nur im Zwiegespräch zwischen dem Erzähler und dem Sammler. Während sich der Sammler immer nur direkt an den Erzähler wendet, hat dieser eine allwissende Sonderstellung: Er nimmt es sich heraus, seine Sätze direkt zu dem Filmzuschauer zu richten, oder einzelne Handlungen des Sammlers zu kommentieren.

Das Abfilmen eines "tableau vivants" ist tendenziell kontraproduktiv. Als Kunstform in seiner reproduzierenden Aufgabe ein Vorgänger der Photographie, findet sich der besondere Reiz eben jener "lebendiger Bilder" doch darin, dass das Publikum durch jene erstarrte Schaustellung hindurchwandern kann, bis das Bild beendet ist. Dieser Effekt entfällt gänzlich bei der Photographie oder bei dem Abfilmen eines "tableau vivants". Erst wenn die Filmkamera die kleinen Fehler in der Kunstsimulation einfängt, vermittelt Ruiz' Film die ungewöhnliche Stimmung, die kultische Zeremonie, die bedrohlich anmutende Konzentration des "lebenden Bildes": Wenn die Akteure blinzeln, atmen, sich bewegen. Dann schwappt jene konspirative Verschworenheit unter den "tableau vivant"-Akteuren auch auf uns über und wir haben das Gefühl bei etwas ganz Einzigartigem dabei zu sein. So einzigartig und mystisch, dass es nur wenige Menschen seit der Erfindung des Photoapparates gesehen haben. Jener Mystizismus und jener zeremonieller Kult werden später im Film auch Subjekt der Auflösung des Rätsels um die Reihenfolge der Bilder.

Natürlich ist Ruiz' Film auch höhnischer, nahezu parodistischer Kommentar auf die Funktionsweise der Kunstinterpretation. Der Sammler, dessen idiosynkratische Besessenheit für eine einzige Interpretationsmöglichkeit wohl der Natur Klossowskis entnommen ist, findet in kleinen Details, nicht in den darstellenden Themen der Bilder die "Beweise" für die Verbindungen zwischen den Bildern, schafft es sogar, nachdem allen sechs Bilder beigewohnt wurden, eine Lösung für das Rätsel zu erstellen – bleibt jedoch unbefriedigt. Während er nahezu eine Stunde in Echtzeit mit Erzähler hochsprachig debattiert hat, sich immer wieder anderer Thesen und Zitate bedient hat, bleiben eigene Zweifel ob der Wahrheit seiner Interpretation. Höhepunkt Ruiz' leicht süffisanten Blicks auf den Kunsttheoretiker an sich, ist jene Szene, in der wir den Sammler im Sessel beobachten, wie seine Sätze über die Bilderreihe und dem gestohlenen Exemplar immer fahriger und leiser ausgesprochen werden, bis er schließlich einschläft. Die Kunst der Interpretation als gähnend langweiliges Handwerk wird durch die Kunst des Filmemachens parodiert, die selbst dann, wenn sie einen schlafenden Mann beobachtet, nicht "gähnend langweilig" wird. Man denke nur an Warhols "Sleep".

"The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting" wirkt eben durch jene Implementierung banaler Szenen schlafender Protagonisten und den scheinbaren Ablauf in Echtzeit wie eine Dokumentation realer Vorgänge. Schon allein durch dieses Genre wird ein komplexes Wechselspiel erzeugt zwischen Leben und Kunst. Der vorliegende Film ist Kunst, imitiert aber Kunst, die Leben darstellt, während es Leben zur Thematik hat, die Kunst imitiert. Das Dokudrama spottet dem repräsentativen Anspruch des non-fiktionalen Films, bereitet seine Techniken und Stilformen auf, um eben jenes Realitätsabbild zu simulieren und es gleichzeitig mit Fiktion anzureichern.

Dadurch entsteht natürlich eine narrative Besonderheit. Während der Inhalt locker auf das Untersuchen des Sammlers einer Reihe von Bildern anhand ihres Skandalpotenzials zusammenschreiben kann, bleibt die Struktur ungewöhnlich und überraschend. So wird die eigentliche Untersuchung des Sammlers nicht einmal gezeigt. Was wir sehen ist der Sammler, wie er durch seine Beweise, seine "lebenden Bilder" stolziert, sie entsprechend seiner Interpretationen und Deutungsansätze arrangiert und von seiner Untersuchung und seines Ergebnisses berichtet. Die eigentliche Handlung der Untersuchung bleibt unvisualisiert, wir sind lediglich Zeuge einer Berichterstattung über die Untersuchung durch den Untersuchenden. Wie alte Freunde oder geschätzte Kunstkenner werden wir zusammen mit dem Erzähler in sein altes Haus eingeladen, damit er, der Sammler, uns durch seinen Irrgarten der Interpretationen führen kann. So gleicht die Erzählform des Films eher die einer Museumsführung: Die "tableau vivants" dabei sind die Ausstellungsstücke und der Sammler kommentiert akademisch ihren Gehalt. Und doch geht durch diese extravagante Erzählform Ruiz' Film keinerlei Spannung oder Faszination ab. Gerade durch die heimelige, private Begegnung zwischen uns, dem Zuschauer, dem eingeladenen Besucher und dem Gastgeber, des Sammlers, entsteht eine direkte Beziehung zwischen uns und dem ausführenden Schauspielers. Hinzukommt die mysteriöse Veranstaltung der "tableau vivants", die hier nicht nur als filmisches Mittel, also zur Visualisierung der thematischen Analyse dienen, sondern wie eine zeremonielle Geheimlehre aussehen und dem Film jene zauberhafte Anziehungskraft verleihen, die er zweifelsohne ausstrahlt.

Raoul Ruiz' "The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting" ist ein fantastisches Meisterwerk, ein wichtiges, avantgardistisches Stück Filmkunst, das selber im Sinne von "L'art pour l'art" über die Kunst an sich reflektiert. Über die Kunst und das Leben mit der Kunst. Und über das Rezipieren der Kunst. Kein Thriller, kein reines Dokudrama, sondern Film, so rein, so wunderbar, so reich an künstlerischen Ausdrucks, so voll von Originalität und narrativem Einfallsreichtum. Kunst eben.

Raoul Ruiz: Les trois couronnes du matelot

It is both exhilarating and humbling to realise that Raúl Ruiz has been making films for more than forty years and that, in the scintillating diversity of his output, he has contributed to the cultural practices, tropes and codes that delineate our contemporaneity. The 1973 coup in Chili defined a new political horizon for an entire generation, but Ruiz’s intelligence, chutzpah and generosity prevented him from capitalising on the event and the sympathy it generated in its adopted country; he refused to play the role of the artist in exile. So when French and British cinephilia discovered him, it was through the Klossowski-inspired The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting rather than Los Tres Tristes Tigres. When the ‘70s and its often painful political-cultural legacy ended, the ‘80s became a grey zone begging to be defined.

For me the ‘80s crystallised (at least on the cinematic level) in four movies presented in 1985 at the 22nd New York Film Festival: Maurice Pialat’s A Nos Amours, Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s Class Relations and Ruiz’s Three Crowns of the Sailor. With the hindsight of time, the sometimes terrible, sometimes playful relevance of these four films to their period becomes clearer. At a first level of analysis, and in spite of their stylistic differences, they all deal with impossible relationships – a sign of the ‘80s. Bodies missed each other; speeches competed and failed to communicate anything; misunderstandings kept occurring; love was impotent to express itself except through blank silences, sullen obsession or bouts of hysteria; and language itself was in crisis.

Seemingly the most seemingly traditional of these films, A Nos Amours, marked a turning point in Pialat’s œuvre. It also pointed to what was going to become an essential part of our cultural and social landscape: the gap, the alienation, the cruel relationships between the generation of adolescents and the generation of their parents, brought to a head today in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant. Stranger than Paradise was one of these precious films that came exactly at the right moment and the right time; people in their late twenties and early thirties, whether in Paris or Caracas, even if they were not artists, identified with it – marginalised, as they were, by capitalism’s latest turn. At first glance, Class Relations is a perfect example of the Straubs’ rigorous method of filmmaking: taking entire fragments of a text in its original language and without changing a word, confronting them with the space generated by the text. The difference is that Kafka, the author of Amerika (the book which is the basis of the film), never travelled to that country, so the film consists in juxtaposing the author¹s imagined spaces to American landscapes and cityscapes - most of which, in fact, were not shot in America. The relevance of Class Relations to the ‘80s lies in its desire to investigate the social space of America. There was a time, indeed, when some of us thought that the secret of our modernity lay there, but no longer – now we are overwhelmed by the brutal raw reality of the violence perpetrated by the American government.

Three Crowns of the Sailor stands in an ironic, undefined category of its own. The film elegantly plays with a bevy of traditional narrative structures – hence the pleasure and fascination it creates. Its apparent timelessness comes from its central trope: the immortal story, a self-generating fiction. This story reappears, with small variants, in different harbours all around the world throughout the centuries. Immortal stories seem to come out of nowhere (maybe the sea itself) and are repeated from sailor to sailor in dives, registration offices, brothels, and on the decks of their ships. The most famous immortal stories are those involving ghost ships, or the plight of an old man who pays a young sailor to make his wife pregnant. By the time immortal stories reach us, they are already palimpsests of multifarious artistic influences and references.

Ruiz’s father was a merchant marine captain, so Three Crowns is, from the outset, impregnated with the memories of Chilean sea legends. But Ruiz is also a reader of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Cortazar’s and Borges’ labyrinthine fictions, Selma Lagerloff’s Nils Holgerson, the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the novels of Stevenson; he is privy to the immortal legend of The Flying Dutchman (in its pre- and post-Wagnerian versions); and a spectator of Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai, Mr Arkadin and The Immortal Story. Welles in particular is an important reference, for the director of F for Fake turned the immortal story into a robust yet cynical discourse upon fallacy and mise en scène. For Ruiz, however, it becomes a quasi-metaphysical reflection on the nature of language, lie, and representation – and, with uncanny accuracy, on the nature of the sexual impasse and the role of the dead father as defined by Lacan. After the initial shock caused by Lacanian theories in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the ‘80s became a time when Lacan almost become mainstream, his problematic occupying centre stage of our modernity. Three Crowns of the Sailor, moving sensuously and imaginatively toward the ‘moment of truth’ represented by the encounter with Mathilde (Lisa Lyon) and the ‘impossible’ female sex organ, articulates this moment when the crisis in narration became a crisis in language, itself a symptom of the implacable disorder and gap in the relationship between the sexes.

The ‘three crowns’ of the title are a mode of exchange between dead men. The sailor (Jean-Bernard Guillard) borrows them from his captain – a ghost – to give them to his symbolic ‘father’ – a black longshoreman met in Africa, about whom he’ll tell us later, ‘He had been dead many years before our encounter’. The student (Philippe Delplanche) has the coins in his pocket through the entire duration of the film because he has murdered another father figure, his benefactor; and the final exchange between the student and the sailor will cause the brutal killing of the latter. The sailor will become (like the others on the ship) a living-dead, a corpse pretending to be alive.

Money, this reified signifier of death, is the only ‘real’ thing in the movie. The sailor enters a world where truth no longer has any currency. At one point, on the ship, the sailor sees a man jumping into the water; but the next day the same character is nonchalantly walking on the deck denying that anything had happened to him (‘It was the other...’). Later, the Funchaleuse, which had bravely resisted the worst tempests, sinks calmly on a fine day in full sight of the sailor, only to reappear in another harbour, under another name. The encounter between the sailor and the student, which gives birth to the fiction, is improbable since they are located in different parts of the world. Their meeting is the repetition of an earlier one, which had given birth to the sailor’s story: his encounter with a blind man who was telling so many lies that one could not even believe the contrary of what he said. To the desperate, out-of-work young sailor, he promises a job on the Funchaleuse and gives him money while telling him, ‘Never accept money from anybody’ – then takes it back and says, ‘Never give money to anybody without requiring something in exchange.’

The sailor’s encounter with the blind man is an encounter with the falsity of representation and the world of money. Money is the only item about which the characters of the story do not lie. The blind man’s warning was true: the sailor’s doom will be the result of his carelessness in accepting money, and giving it without exchange. For Lacan, money was ‘this signifier that abolishes all others’. Because money represents nothing, it cannot be lied about: it is pure form. The black longshoreman burns the banknotes given to him by the sailor (‘This is a lot of money, but what I need is three Danish crowns’), and then refuses to exchange these three crowns for another garrulous stream of stories, because ‘every moment of life would take years to explain.’

I am reminded of a text by avant-garde filmmaker Hollis Frampton, which investigates both the role of the father and the nature of filmic representation. A rich man, wanting to keep a record of the entire life of his baby daughter, hires several crews of cameramen to film her day and night. The heiress leads a very active life, and never has the time to watch any of the footage. So, when she dies, she orders that a baby be chosen to do nothing in his entire life but watch the movie. That is, mutatis mutandis, the situation the sailor finds himself in: because of the gap left by the silence of the father, he must star in a movie, and force someone (the student) to relive/witness it with him, to be the listener for his narration, with his lapses of memory, contradictions and possible lies.

Fiction is possible because of the ‘wandering of the son’. The sailor may try to eradicate his filiation through namelessness, but he is nevertheless a son – precisely in his desire to leave his family behind, which will prompt him to embark on any ship available. Yet he cannot really let go of his obsession for the family romance. During his trips around the world, he tries to rewrite it by creating an artificial family: a wife (the delicate, childish prostitute in the Valparaiso brothel, who works there to pay a debt contracted by her dead father), two brothers (the two Arabian thieves), a son (the Hong Kong professor kept in a state of perpetual childhood), a father (the impoverished longshoreman whose tribe had been elected by God but who has forgotten the name of that tribe), and even a substitute mother (one of the men of the Funchaleuse ‘rents’ his mother to those in need of affection, and the sailor refers to her as "my mother".) This new family is just as fake – or as real - as the original one. When the sailor comes back to his hometown, he finds his house deserted, and is told many conflicting stories about the fate of the people who used to inhabit it: one of these stories depicts him as a murderer, and all of them assert that his is dead. Is he really the young sailor that we saw leaving his mother and sister and promising to bring them back ‘two bicycles, a necklace, some coffee’ – or is he somebody else?

Puzzled by these constant shifts in meaning, the sailor looks for something real: nudity – absolute, total, integral nudity – and fancies he is going to find it in the person of Mathilde, a dancer who ‘has made nudity an art’, even though in her music hall act she is partially covered with black nylons and bikini. Mathilde undresses, and finally takes off the silver stars that cover her nipples. To his horror, the sailor discovers that Mathilde’s body is also a fiction – the pubic hair that covered her groin was a prothesis, there is nothing ‘underneath’, nothing hidden, her mouth is her only orifice. A simple interpretation may decipher this unexpected turn of events as the expression of masculine anxiety regarding the female genitals – oral sex, after all, is still possible and much less threatening, especially if you pay. Yet in Three Crowns, this moment of ‘non-truth’ has more complex resonances. Firstly, the living-dead sailors of the Funchaleuse never defecate, so we can assume they have only one orifice as well. Secondly, the visual art reference tantalisingly alluded to here is The Origins of the World, in which Courbet painted (in what we’d now call a close-up) a female vagina, while the body of the woman, naked with her legs spread, is only half-visible, with her head hidden, as if she had no identity. (Lacan once owned this painting.) It is as if, dead tired of being nothing but the half-baked products of fictions coined by a succession of fake fathers, the sailor looked towards the mother for a metaphor of his origins – and ended up being short-changed there as well. The sailor has no name – meaning his wandering somewhat protects him from the Law of the Father – yet the jouissance of the Mother’s body is prohibited to him as well. Like the Funchaleuse, he is anchored nowhere and going nowhere, hence is not really sure that he really exists.

Thirdly, at the level of the diegesis, once the first moment of horror passed, the discovery that Mathilde has only one orifice overwhelms the sailor with an ‘unspeakable’ sexual obsession. It is at this point that he ‘graduates’ from being a simple pawn in a fantastic tale whole rules have been forgotten long ago, to being a romantic hero. The sailor’s world is, indeed, one of fathomless illusions, but for all of us in the real world, total nudity is as unattainable as total truth – it is impossible for a body to fully grasp another body (Lacan: ‘One can enjoy only a part of the other’s body ... one is limited to a small embrace, to taking a forearm’). And, finally, this social-cultural-marketing artifact called female nudity is nothing but a construction.

The challenge – and the seduction – offered by Three Crowns of the Sailor is in no small way increased by the obvious pleasure Ruiz-the-director had in making the film. To suggest this constant, vertiginous shift in representation, he was very careful not to take more than one shot from the same angle. For Ruiz-the-son, or Ruiz-the-implicit-cultural-critic, the film takes on a more ominous meaning. It is always exhilarating to listen to or to tell stories, but the narratives that make up the backbone of Three Crowns are shadows, ghosts, illusions of stories, truncated fragments made of scraps of other stories, lingering in every harbour and every brothel to the point that nobody believes in them anymore. And finally, the point of origin and point of arrival of such stories is always the same – not the forbidden, tantalising, comforting body of the mother, but the death inflicted to or by the father. Like in Arabian Nights, these stories have been coined to ward off death, but not for long; they are the only possible discourse before death, but once there is nothing left to tell, the outcome is swift and unavoidable. And what generates them, in their tedious repetition – for they have already been told, written, painted and filmed countless times – is the constant burden of having to pay the debt of the father, whether he is dead, gone, lying or unconscious.

The final signifier that runs throughout the fiction, remaining potent in all the harbours and all the dives, which resists death and even gains greater currency from it, is money. And now, in the early years of the twenty-first century, this dimension seems prophetic. For we live in a world in which Borges, Welles, Courbet and Lacan have less importance than oil and money. In 1973, Allende was assassinated; in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Three Crowns of a Sailors emanated from a world defined by these two events, but it was also a harbinger of the world to come. A world where utopia, twice lost, keeps functioning as a provider of illusions no less fantastic than that experienced by the nameless sailor. A world about which Ruiz himself would write in Poetics of Cinema, developing ideas first sketched out at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Authorless and rootless, the immortal stories are what he called ‘stories for everyone’ which ‘don’t exist in any particular place: they are utopian. In order to manufacture such tales, we are inventing, manufacturing and experimenting with utopian images – placeless, rootless images’. (With uncanny prescience, Ruiz mentions ‘Professor Arnold Schwarzenegger’ as a provider/champion of this utopia. In California, 2003, the utopia became real – and also a nightmare.)

One version of this utopia mentioned by Ruiz involves ‘cabalistic players ... engage[d] in a massive exchange of coded text. The winner takes away more than he can consume. The loser hands over what he never had.’ Ruiz also referred to glorified ‘bank clerks’ enacting the diktats (or marché de dupes) of late capitalism. Strangely enough – but nothing should surprise us aboard the Funchaleuse – this is also an excellent description of Three Crowns of the Sailor.

Raoul Ruiz: La ville des pirates

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.

There is no city of course, just a spooky castle on a rocky island (although Tobi [Hugues Quester] does tell us that his madness is due to a hatred of big cities). The rocks and the sea are not the only echoes of the quintessential Surrealist film, L’Age d’or (1930). Cryptic and humorous touches in Ruiz are like reprises of Buñuel’s dialogue, as when the dying cyclist offers Isidore (Anne Alvaro) anything she wants, ‘a radio, corned beef, calamari’. The kiss in the garden shared by Isidore and Tobi completes one unconsummated by Gaston Modot and Lya Lys. The Spaniards who must fight the pirates once a year evoke the invading Majorcans who built Rome in a day in 1930. The Surrealist object as seen in L’Age d’or – Modot fantasies a woman’s masturbating finger in an ad for cold cream – lives again in Isidore’s suitcase containing chicken legs, cabbage leaves and a severed prophet’s head that lights up when read poetry. The jokes in Ruiz’s film partake of the ‘Umour’ of Jacques Vaché, anarchist dandy, Breton’s mentor. Indeed, the paper boats that Isidore and Malo (Melvil Poupaud) float on the oozing blood of her murdered father directly echo one of Vaché’s black tales. And when a bouncing ball is interpreted with much aplomb by Isidore’s parents as their lost son, we are reminded of a similar enigmatic ball ricocheting through a scenario by the Surrealist poet Robert Desnos.

If it is useful to map out this constellation of congruencies – in an attempt to extend not empty the richness of Ruiz’s work – then perhaps City of Pirates should be read as a film fantastique, sharing something of the trance-like, morbid poetry of Maya Deren and the paranoid Manicheism of English SF cinema of the early ‘60s. The drawing of the baleful child Malo owes something to the intense, malign ‘children of the damned’ in the film of the same name. The willing suicide of the cyclist, destroyed as much by the amoral stare of the boy as by his skill with a razor, echoes the unforgettable shotgun death of Mervyn Johns (although it is difficult to remember which of the Damned cycle this was in, Leander’s, Rilla’s, or even Losey’s). The tumescent, terrible sexuality that drives the narrative along takes on a vampirish quality. The ghoulish and lascivious Malo eats only garlic; Tobi’s alter ego, his sister Carmela, evokes Le Fanu’s lesbian bloodsucker Carmilla; Isidore’s pregnancy makes us think of raw liver-eating Rosemary: oral sadism, cannibalism even, underpins these images.

Much of the pleasure in Ruiz comes from the aesthetic means he employs to suggest the Surreality inhabited by his desiring machines. (Of course their world looks exactly like our own.) His maniacs live in, and for, contradiction. When the tide is on the turn, as the opening shot shows, it comes in and goes out at the same time. Surprise, invention, paradox are Ruiz’s touchstones. He believes in affirmation through irony, the clarity of enigma, deferred resolution, outlandish change of mood. He moves forward by staying in the same place. The tales his characters tell echo each other in certain details, enough to suggest an occult order behind discrete events. (The literal device of a vicious secret society controlling events is a delicious deus ex machina.) A newspaper is repeatedly read in preference to hearing real-life stories. Father’s aching teeth recall the cyclist’s soaking in a glass, and evoke the cadaverous Isidore’s gaping maw.

Ruiz’s striking framing, with enormous foreground objects united through deep focus to background subjects, recalls not so much Welles as Hitchcock’s experiments in his Freudian melodrama (Spellbound [1945], with its dream sequence by Dalí), or even the beach nude photographs of Bill Brandt. In one extraordinary and hilarious shot, the camera peeps from inside a mouth, teeth and gums framing the image top and bottom. Kitschy, tinted seascapes add little but themselves. The music persistently suggests imminent climax, but never delivers. Switches from colour to monochrome seem to add credence to the idea that Ruiz’s whole film is a gratifying and elaborate subterfuge intended to keep meaning at a distance. For many audiences, the free-associating, poetic dialogue will ensure this is so.

Attempting to sum up City of Pirates, one finds phrases like ‘family romance’ (Freud), ‘puer aeternus’ (Jung), ‘the myth of the androgyne’ (Boehme), springing to mind. What binds Ruiz’s lost souls to each other’s desire is an Oedipal, narcissistic quest for identity, for a place in the world other than by a poolside, by water. A sister wants to meet her brother, a mother and father their son. A boy kills a father and a brother. A son wants to be his sister and his mother. A mother offers advice on how to live with the Eternal Return.

Desire depends upon creating an unbridgeable distance to ensure infinite pursuit of the object. If Ruiz’s film palls in its compulsive retreading of trod ground, in its insistent miracle-working, it is because such desiring fictions are by definition interminable, and autonomous. The cinema, of course, is the ideal location for such doomed searches for the cathartic image, for recapturing the eternal, dangerous moment of looking.

Raoul Ruiz: Manoel

This three part French TV serial for children (alternate versions exist as a feature, Manoel’s Destinies, and a 4 part Portuguese TV serial, Adventure in Madeira) is the favourite of many devotees of Raúl Ruiz. This is because it ties the enchantment and mystery of Lewis Carroll, Carlo Collodi and the Brothers Grimm to the filmmaker’s experiments with narrative strategies and what he calls the pentaludic model of storytelling (where characters are thrown dice-like into combinations and situations governed by the play of Chance and Destiny).

But this film for children is among his most complex works, hard to grasp in its totality. Often it can seem an arbitrary collection of free-associational images and words, bordering on nonsense. But attentive viewers will have the strong sense that there is method behind this near-madness. Otherwise, it could never produce the intense emotions it so clearly offers. Ruiz’s obsessions from film to film bind the fragments together – within a single work and across projects – and the emotion comes from the totally unexpected forking taken within a well-worn territorial map.

Writing or filming for children can sometimes bring a person straight to the source of their art. Having to perceptibly adapt their style confronts them with what must be included. Manoel leaves us with the essential Ruiz, the audio-visual companion to his extraordinary book Poetics of Cinema. (1) Its dizzying narrative fold-over-fold methodology creates a labyrinthine temporal structure.

Part One presents us with three possible worlds. In each world, seven year-old Manoel has a different response to an entreaty from the outside world. Fittingly, in this film in which nothing coincides, the three parts of the story do not coincide with the three-episode structure (the trinity-form recurs frequently in Ruiz). In this case, past, present and future – the unholy trinity or Time en soi – is the film’s very protagonist, variously called ‘long ago’ (Part One), ‘now’ (Part Two), and ‘future’ (Part Three). At the outset, this gives the story an apparent order before digressions take it over.

The boy responds to a call but cannot tell if it is a call for help, an invitation, an order or a warning. Is it all of these things? Immediately the spectator is thrust into a position of maximal ambiguity, the viewing situation eluding the conventional paradigm of conflict and audience identification which typifies Hollywood cinema. Ruiz joins forces with an entire alternative line of cinema from Kenji Mizoguchi (an avowed early inspiration) to Hou Hsiao-hsien which offers inactive, almost somnambulistic characters. These characters have a duty or liability inrelation to unseen forces, voices carried on the wind – even if this notion is soon undercut by Manoel’s declaration: ‘I’m not skipping school because a voice calls me, but because I choose.’

Soon he is face to face with himself six years older. Only stories could have filled – or rather, produced – the interval. As in Samuel Beckett, only stories separate our scattered selves from each other. The effect of Manoel’s decision – in a universe where only the most distant events affect each other – is brutal: the sudden death of his mother. Watching Manoel, the dominant questions become not ‘what will happen next?’ or ‘what is this about?’ but rather: ‘from where do these images and narrative fragments come? What are the film’s generative rules?’

The multiplication of narrative threads continues throughout the work. It can never be a matter for Ruiz of going ‘simply’ backwards and forwards through Manoel’s life story. Instead, he applies the narrative techniques outlined in Poetics of Cinema: images come first, narrative must follow. Images generate more images, bringing about the linking and unlinking of story-fragments in a ‘lottery of synchronisms and diachronisms’ (p. 54). The organizing principles of Ruiz’s narrative construction have nothing to do with those that govern reality. In Ruiz, the generative rules involve only images and codes that escape the impoverished rationality of the Hollywood model. His aim is to produce, in his own magnificent phrase après Walter Benjamin, ‘a dustcloud of meaningless signs capable of conspiring against visual convictions’ (p. 32).

Manoel number two takes centre stage and we begin again in a new possible world. ‘Within each series of stories each story is a game in itself,’ says Ruiz (p. 85). The question posed is: what occurs when there is an added element in the very same scenario, namely Manoel being watched by his mother? On this occasion he will enter the forbidden place, meet the fisherman, raise new questions and trigger a new outcome: the punishment and the death of his father.

In the third possible world he chooses caution to save both parents but, in line with the exhaustion of possibilities that this Leibnizian method demands, Manoel himself must now die. It’s time to begin again! Ruiz’s dream: ‘a film made up only of departure points’ (p. 112).

Part Two (the status of which is at first confusing since it begins after the three mini-narratives of the first Part and before the end of Episode One) is entitled ‘The Picnic of Dreams’. Whilst vaguely ‘keeping to the storyline’, it veers off in many different directions, where the thematic coupling ordinary/special replaces the familiar/unknown dualism of Part One. (Each Part is guided by a thematic ‘dominant’, a pair of notions that tend to exchange their meanings as it progresses.)

Ruiz invents series of mini-narratives, serial scenes, events or vignettes which follow in sequence along parallel tracks. Their occasional meeting-points are more impressionistic than progressive. This part involves a lot of counting and mathematical totting up. We shift from a concern with Time, Fate and Storytelling to the more scientific problems of experiment, arithmetic and economy (a character is called Sir Money). If Ruiz remains a Surrealist, it is expressed in his obsession with metaphors drawn from physics concerning electromagnetic forces, interfering wavelengths, short circuits of energy and tenuous links formed between ‘communicating vessels’.

On a school outing to the forest in an effort to make a collective dream come true, Manoel’s body is stolen by a woodcutter prone to worry about the decline in the creativity of ‘the people’. Soon we meet a ghost band of ex-pirates, a pretext for Ruiz to enter a sensual laboratory of deranged faculties as tears change their taste and a deck of cards is listened to for lessons in truth-telling.

Part Three (beginning in Episode Two), entitled ‘The Little Chess-Champion’, hands the (until now) off-screen voice-over narration to Manoel himself. He promises to tell his own story, but adds that it’s ‘a story that I made up in my distant childhood and that happens in the future’. The tone is less Baroque, more Gothic, as Ruiz explores the ‘wonders of the night’. The filmmaker’s obsession in this section concerns perception and the deciphering of secret signs and codes. At a children’s party staged in a Museum, questions are posed: ‘Where do these voices come from? Where do shadows go?’

The general pattern of the work as a whole thus becomes clear. If Part One offers philosophical stories and Part Two explores science (of a somewhat New Age variety), then Part Three works like an audio-visual poetics of art which draws an equation between cinema and the shadow-world of children’s stories. It is a call of the wild: ‘Well, my friend, art calls,’ says one child before launching into song (in English). In this very moving Part, Ruiz the filmmaker really lets loose – accompanied by the equally hypnotic music of Jorge Arriagada. From Elephant Island (a kind of cinema situated inside an elephant) arrives Captain Pombo de Albuquerque. He stages a display of shadow-theatre of such menace, it appears that something beyond life and death is at stake. Like the mythic Ferryman, the Captain announces: ‘Crossing borders is my business. I take people from one world to the next’ – before dying, stabbed in the back by one of the shadows he himself has conjured. The lesson: art is born in the murky world of children’s games. It is a bombardment of signs ‘sprung from nowhere’ (p. 31), evading articulate decipherment. But, because of its demonic origins, art is fated to destroy its practitioners.

Ruiz’s ars combinatoria is never arbitrary, and the spectator must not be merely content to savour the audio-visual feast on offer. It is a matter of deciphering the singular generative form of each individual work: those endless digressions that create a poetics of generators unique for each film. So what is the blueprint for Manoel on the Island of Marvels? It takes us on a search through the worlds of, firstly, the storyteller, the philosophical weaver of words and worlds; secondly, the calculating and computing laboratory of science; and, thirdly, the generating sources of creativity, of art and life. A search for what? For the one image (or more accurately for its power, its ‘reach’), the Ur-image from which narrative can flow (as in Citizen Kane): in this case, the yellow light at the window of his parent’s house, and the thief’s hand clutching stolen treasure on the grounds outside that window.

In Manoel more than in any other film, Ruiz’s cinema takes us everywhere at once. And having done so it asks, in a final ironic twist: ‘Can you really see? Is it what you wanted to see?’

martes, 13 de julio de 2010


-Per me e propizio il fato: Armida
-Ah bello a me ritorna, Me protegge me diffende, Ah si fa core abracciami, Si fino all'ore streme, Gia mi pasco: Norma
-Son vergin vezzosa, Ah sento o mio bell'angelo, Suoni la tromba intrepido io pugnerò da forte: I puritani
-Non v'ha sguardo, Coppia Iniqua, Va infelice: Anna Bolena
-Era desso il figlio mio, Si voli il primo a cogliere: Lucrezia Borgia
-Torna torna, o caro oggeto: Rosmonda d'Inghilterra
-Nella pace del mesto riposo, Va preparati furente, Ah se un giorno da queste ritorte: Maria Stuarda
-Quando rapito in estasi, Se tradirmi tu potrai, Esci Fuggi: Lucia di Lammermoor
-Salgo gia del trono aurato, Deh perdona: Nabucco
-No giusta causa, Come poteva un angelo, Giselda Non fu sogno!: I lombardi
-Tutto sprezzo che d'Ernani, Vieni meco sol di rose, Oh tu che'l alma adora: Ernani
-Or tutti sorgete ministri infernali, : Macbeth
-Possente amor mi chiama, Si vendetta: Rigoletto
-Di tale amor, Tu vedrai che amore in cielo, Di quella pira: Il trovatore
-E Se Fia Che Ad Altro Oggetto: Don Pasquale
-Nell'argilla maledetta, Carlo vive, Tremate o miseri: I Masnadieri
-De' numi furenti: Semiramide
-É gettata la mia sorte, Da te questo or m'è concesso o giustizia alta divina, Oltre a quel limite t'attendo o spettro!, Vanitosi!, Allor che i forti corrono: Attila
-Oh mio rimorso: La Traviata
-Sfolgero divinio raggio: Poliuto
-Si pel ciel marmoreo giuro: Otello
-Non son io che la condanno, Ah la morte a cui m'apresso: Beatrice di Tenda
-Oh sole! ti vela di tenebre oscure: Il Pirata
-Patrizi tremate: I due Foscari
-La tremenda ultrice spada, L'amo tanto e m'è si cara: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
-Quel sangue versato, Bagnato il sen di lagrime, Va la morte sul capo ti pende, Ah ritorna qual ti spero: Roberto Devereux
-Ah fu giusto il mio sospetto, A brani, a brani o perfido, L'ara o l'avello apprestami: Luisa Miller
-Scritto in ciel: La Favorita
-Ah non giunse uman pensiero, Ah perchè non posso odiarti: La Sonnambula
-Ah dal sen di quella tomba: Aroldo
-Ugo è spento: Parisina d´Este
-Or sei pago: La Straniera
-À ce mot tout s'anime: Les Hugonotes

jueves, 1 de julio de 2010


En noviembre del 86 en Zürich, Ileana Cotrubas se dirigió directamente al público tras la caída del telón, pidiendo que la disculparan por haber aparecido en una producción tan pésima de "La Traviata".
El director Nicolas Joel y Pet Halmen (encargado de los decorados) comentaron que, a pesar de estar abatida, Cotrubas había recibido la cifra astronómica que le pagaron con gran entereza.

Tras tener que escuchar por parte de determinados críticos que "no cantaba con el corazón", Edita Gruberova exigió que se retiraran todos los pases para periodistas para un recital de Lieder que dio en Salzburg en 1989.
Y coronó su gesta con la frase: "Si cualquiera pudiera escribir lo que quisiera, esto sería una anarquía."


Si hay un nombre que es sinónimo de lujo, ése es probablemente Luchino Visconti.
Al parecer, todos los armarios que salen en "Il Gattopardo" están llenos de vestidos de época (que no se llegan a ver en ningún momento en la película).
Durante la preparación de "La Sonnambula" que en 1955 él produjo para La Scala (Bernstein a la batuta), Visconti insistió en que la Callas llevara sus mejores joyas, incluso durante los ensayos.
Ella protestó tímidamente:
"Pero, Luchino, sólo soy una humilde pastorcilla!"
A lo que él replicó:
"No: tú eres MARIA CALLAS haciendo de una humilde pastorcilla. No lo olvides, querida."


Los ensayos para la premiere de "Salome" fueron muy tempestuosos, por lo exigente de la partitura tanto para los cantantes como para la orquesta.
A la famosa descripción de Strauss ("Salome es una princesa adolescente con la voz de Isolda"), respondió la cantante del papel titular Marie Wittich: "No, segnor Strauss: o lo uno, o lo otro"
La Wittich, que era una segnora hecha y derecha, y algo entradita en carnes (Strauss se refería a ella como "la tía Wittich"), se negó además a bailar "La danza de los 7 velos" y a besar la cabeza de Juan el Bautista con una frase que se ha convertido en célebre: "No lo haré: soy una mujer decente".
Una bailarina fue contratada ex profeso para la escena.
Esa premiere fue uno de los éxitos más espectaculares de la historia de la ópera.


Winton Dean nos cuenta de los rifirrafes entre las dos primadonnas que estrenaron la Maria Stuarda: al parecer la rivalidad entre Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis (Maria) y Anna del Sere (Elisabetta) iba más allá de las tablas.
Durante el primer ensayo, la Ronzi interpretó a Maria con tal vehemencia y trató a Anna del Sere de bastarda y furcia con tal convicción, que la del Sere se lo tomó como un ataque personal y se enzarzaron en una pelea.
Anna del Sere venció en el primer round, pero la Ronzi era más fuertota y empezaba a ganar puntos cuando Donizetti las hizo entrar en razón con un: "Esas dos reinas eran unas putas y vosotras dos también sois unas putas ".


1) François Couperin: Les nations (four harpsichord-en-trio pieces consisting of a sonata followed by a suite.)
2) Hector Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette
3) Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
4) Paul Dukas: Symphony in C
5) Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé [ballet]
6) Maurice Ravel: Ma Mère l'Oïe [ballet]
7) Maurice Ravel: La Valse ["choreographic poem"]
8) Maurice Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole
9) Maurice Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales
10) Vincent d'Indy: La forêt enchantée, Op 8 [tone poem]
11) Vincent d'Indy Symphony no 2 in B flat major, Op 57
12) Gabriel Pierné: Impromptu-caprice for solo harp in A flat major, Op. 9
13) André Caplet: "Le Miroir de Jesus" for mezzo-sporano, 3 accompanying voices, string quartet and harp.
14) Joseph Guy-Ropartz: Salut au Saint-Sacrement pour la Fête de Saint Louis de Gonzague
15) Joseph Guy-Ropartz: Choral Symphony (Third of five).
16) Albert Roussel: Sinfonietta op. 52
17) Albert Roussel: Aeneas op. 54 [ballet]
18) Vincent d'Indy: Diptyque méditerranéen
19) Gabriel Fauré: Une châtelaine en sa tour, Op. 110 (solo harp)
20) Gabriel Fauré: 13 nocturnes, Opp. 33/1-3, 36, 37, 63, 74, 84/8, 97, 99, 104, 107, 119
21) Gabriel Fauré: 4 valses-caprices, Opp. 30, 38, 59, 62
22) André Caplet: "Conte Fantastique (The Masque of Red Death) d'après Poe".
23) Henri Dutilleux: Timbres, espace, mouvement, ou, La Nuit etoilée [symphonic triptych]
24) Henri Sauguet: Symphony No 1, Expiatoire
25) Charles Kœchlin: The Jungle Book [cycle of four symphonic poems after Kipling]

domingo, 6 de junio de 2010


Un re in ascolto - Luciano Berio
The House of the Sun - Einojuhani Rautavaara
Montezuma - Roger Sessions
Three Sisters - Peter Eötvös
Dialogues de Carmelites - Francis Poulenc
Licht - Karlheinz Stockhausen
Boulevard Solitude - Hans Werner Henze
Die Soldaten - Bernd Alois Zimmermann
Hyperion - Bruno Maderna
Ulisse - Luigi Dallapiccola
Antony and Cleopatra - Samuel Barber
Doctor Atomic - John Adams
Adriana Mater - Kaija Saariaho
Die Bassariden - Hans Werner Henze
Jakob Lenz - Wolfgang Rihm
Die Teufel von Loudun - Krzysztof Penderecki
Der Besuch Der Alten Dame - Gottfried von Einem
Death in Venice - Benjamin Britten
Prometeo - Luigi Nono
Almas Muertas - Rodion Shchedrin
Le Grand Macabre - György Ligeti
Volo di notte - Luigi Dallapiccola
Lear - Aribert Reimann
Angels in America - Peter Eötvös
Saint François d'Assise - Olivier Messiaen
Lost Highway - Olga Neuwirth
Atalanta - Robert Ashley
Opera - Luciano Berio
Satyagraha - Philip Glass
The Turn of the Screw - Benjamin Britten
The Mask of Orpheus - Harrison Birtwistle
Nixon in China - John Adams
A Night at the Chinese Opera - Judith Weir
Elegy for young lovers - Hans Werner Henze
Die Eroberung von Mexico - Wolfgang Rihm
Fama - Beat Furrer
The Consul - Gian Carlo Menotti
Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern - Helmut Lachenmann
The Death of Klinghoffer - John Adams
Luci mie traditrici - Salvatore Sciarrino
Akhnaten - Philip Glass
Rasputin - Einojuhani Rautavaara
L’amour de loin - Kaija Saariaho
Shadowtime - Brian Ferneyhough
Einstein on the Beach - Philipp Glass

domingo, 25 de abril de 2010


Com es fa un tiramisú (gràcies, Esther!):

-es munten les clares de 3 ous
-es barregen els 3 rovells amb 3 cullerades grans de sucre
-s'afegeix una terrina de mascarpone (uns 250gr) als rovells
-s'hi van afegint les clares muntades

-a part, es posa cafè en un plat o bowl i s'hi mullen els melindros (amb un paquet en tindràs prou) a mida que els has de posar al recipient (capa de melindros, capa de pasta blanca, capa de melindros, capa de pasta); no els deixis en remull, que es desfarien

-després s'hi posa xocolata en pols, o cacau, per sobre
-i es deixa tot a la nevera, o al congelador (un parell d'horetes al congelador li fan bé)

Ah! a la pasta blanca s'hi posa un raig petit d'un licor italià (marsala, crec); jo abans hi posava una miqueta d'anís, ara no en tinc i no hi poso res...

jueves, 8 de abril de 2010


I asked recently a friend wihich one he considered as the most beautiful melody in classical music.
I was expecting something like the piano line in the adagio assai of Ravel´s Concerto in G, or Bach´s "Erbarme dich", or the 2nd movement of Schubert´s Piano Trio D929, or Verdi´s "Il balen del suo sorriso", or almost anything by Mozart.

But no.

Here you have the answer:

During the classical centuries I would not hesitate to give the first place to the ”song theme” of Borodin’s Polovetzian dances from “Prince Igor”.

But there are strong rivals. One that most of us may be inclined to overlook is “Virgine Bella” by Guillaume Dufay”, 15th century, text by Petrarca.

Many songs by Schubert could be added, and so could many songs by the Danish composers C. E. F. Weyse and Carl Nielsen.

But by Schubert I would also mention the second theme (first time played in F major) of the second movement of his great C major symphony.

Or the beginning of the second movement of Cesar Franck’s symphony.

Maybe also the first theme of Bartok’s second violin concerto.

Near the end of the first act of Paul Dukas’ opera “Ariane et Barbe-Bleu” there is a highly melodic choir which starts in e minor.

Olivier Messiaen had an extraordinary capacity for creating melodies, and many would agree that during the 20th century he has no real rival.

But around 1950 a number of 12-tone composers who felt they had exhausted their own framework became students of Messiaen in the hope that he could help them. In actual fact Messiaen was much influenced by them, and most of what he wrote after that time had a strong ingredient of point music. But point music is hardly suitable for creating melodies. So Messiaen ceased to use or develop one of his greatest talents.

Examples of his best melodies:

“La nativité du Seigneur” (The Birth of Our Lord),
second movement, second theme. When the second them is introduced it will remain until the end of the movement. This is possibly the longest section Messiaen has composed in the key with 9 tones.
Fourth movement, the second theme. It is exclusively accompanied by long unmoving simple harmonies, many of them just major or minor triads.