Mysteries of Lisbon (2010)

RAOUL RUIZ

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5.  

Original title:  Misterios de Lisboa

Portugal/France, 2010.  Clap Filmes, Alfama Films, Arte France, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, Cofinova Développement, Câmara Municipal de Oeiras, Camara Municipal de Sintra, Câmara Municipal de Vila do Bispo, Egeac.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , National Society of Film Critics Awards 2011.  Toronto International Film Festival 2010.

Epic drama that runs four and a half hours and shows all the beauty and radiance that can be expected from the masterful Raoul Ruiz. Based on the novel by Camilo Castelo Branco, it begins with Joao, an orphan boy being raised by a kindly priest who begins him on a journey to understanding his true parentage. His mother is actually still alive, trapped in a loveless marriage with a brutal man after having borne our Joao out of wedlock. The first half covers the story of her love affair with his real father, but then the narrative spirals out to include other characters whose own dramatic arcs are linked, some more than others, to the young man’s destiny, until he grows up and begins his own participation in his life story. You need to keep on the ball with the many characters who are thrown your way, as Ruiz doesn’t do a lot of backtracking and the narrative sometimes gets confusing. Don’t worry about keeping on top of all the details, however, just let the historic grandeur sweep over you even though you are not necessarily moved deeply by the characters’ plights; like many films made by eccentric auteurs, it features few closeups and as a result hits much more on an intellectual level than an emotional one, but if you commit you’ll want to stay for the long haul.

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