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Raul Ruiz 1941-2011

Le Monde is reporting that Raul Ruiz died Friday, August 19 in Paris, where the exiled Chilean filmmaker had made his home since 1973. The cause of death was a pulmonary infection. The seemingly indefatigable filmmaker was still hard at work: “He was in the midst of finishing the editing of a film he has shot on his childhood in Chile,” Ruiz’s producer, François Margolin, told Le Monde, “And he was preparing another film in Portugal, on a famous Napoleonic battle.”

Ruiz’s passing at 70 represents a tremendous loss for contemporary filmmaking. After a relatively fallow decade, he seemed to be have recovered his fierce creativity with “Mysteries of Lisbon,” which won the Prix Louis Delluc last year and is currently playing in US art houses. I had the pleasure of spending time with him on several occasions. He was a remarkably warm and generous person, dazzlingly well read and gifted with one of the liveliest intelligences I have ever encountered.

A fine appreciation from J. Hoberman is up at the Village Voice site.

55 comments to Raul Ruiz 1941-2011

  • Nathan Hancock

    “Closed Book” is probably the weakest of the twenty odd Ruiz films I’ve seen. There are some lovely, elegant camera movements that point towards “Mysteries of Lisbon,” and one or two interesting sequences, but overall the film feels shoddy and unfinished, with dreadful stock music and indifferent color timing. The big mysteries are the three huge South American mini series projects – “Litoral,” “La Recta Provincia,” and “Colfrandes: A Chilean Rhapsody.”

    Any thoughts on the mini-series version of “Mysteries of Lisbon”? I read the Ruiz prefers the film cut, but the fourth episode (The Crimes of Ancaleta dos Remédios) is such an extraordinary effort in itself that it seems insane to cut it out of the film version entirely.

  • Zoran S

    I’d say Blind Revenge/ Closed book is probably the weakest Ruiz that I’ve seen as well. I’m also not too fond of Comedy of Innocence.

    Oh and I loved the mini-series version of Mysteries of Lisbon! The dvd-set is fantastic.

  • Ruiz’s lower-budget work is almost always his most interesting, I find. His recent Chilean stuff, for example – especially COFRALANDES CHILEAN RHAPSODY and DIAS DE CAMPO – is marvellous. I’d say those two are as good as, though very different from, the mad run of masterpieces he made in the 1980s. (You can see the seeds of MYSTERIES OF LISBON rather more clearly in LA RECTA PROVINCIA and LITORAL though.)

    Like I said, Ruiz was betrayed by the producers on A CLOSED BOOK/BLIND REVENGE: they made him promise to tone down any Ruizian “strangeness”, monitored his every move on set and then took the film out of his hands in post and added a musical score he hated. He asked to have his name removed from the credits, but they didn’t oblige. He said that working with the English was a worse experience even than making SHATTERED IMAGE for Hollywood – zero respect for or interest in the director.

    I heard he wasn’t too happy with the shorter cut of KLIMT either but placated by the fact that the longer Director’s Cut was released in some territories.

  • Peter Henne

    I’ve seen between 15 and 20 Ruizes; UCLA had a small retrospective in 1990 that included THREE SAD TIGERS, video works and other of his “hidden” films. I’m sorry to say that I cannot remember them very well, not because they didn’t make an impression but because it was so hard at the time to pull them together stylistically. For this viewer, it took a while to get accustomed to what was then Ruiz’s defiance of a readily-spotted signature. Yet something intellectually persistent was up with this guy-predominant haze, brandished lens filters, speech as debate preparation, settings that lent an impression of yet seldom an outright conviction in theatre made up on the spot. In Ruiz, the struggle for the characters seems to be to answer where is one, what is fake, and how can one emerge from a dreamlike entrancement to stage a vigorous argument about philosophical reality? My favorites of his are ON TOP OF THE WHALE, THREE CROWNS OF THE SAILOR, HYPOTHESIS OF THE STOLEN PAINTING, THREE LIVES AND ONLY ONE DEATH, and TIME REGAINED.

  • andrewbl

    Further to Joe Dante’s Quatermass 2 comment above, wasn’t “Quatermass 2” the name of the rocketship that figures in the action? That was certainly the case with the original TV series, and offered a figleaf of internal justification for the ‘coarseness’ of having a bluntly numerical sequel. A rather witty workaround, I thought.

    As for Ruiz, it’s a terrible loss, but at least he’s left us with a colossal body of work to discover and rediscover. The vast majority is as yet unavailable on DVD, but there are three essential box sets that are well worth tracking down.

    First off, there’s the French Blaq Out collection including The Suspended Vocation, Hypothesis of a Stolen Painting and Three Crowns of a Sailor – two or three masterpieces there, depending on your predilections. This set was also ported to the US by Facets, but I can’t speak for that version.

    Then there are two recent box sets issued in Portugal. The first, Raridades, includes The Territory, Point de Fuite, City of Pirates (my favourite Ruiz) and the delirious Love Torn in Dream. The second, A Consagracao, focuses on more recent work, and comprises Three Lives and Only One Death, Genealogies of a Crime, Time Regained, That Day and the full-length Klimt.

    All three of these sets include supporting interviews and analysis and there are even a couple of Ruiz shorts (including the essential Colloque de Chiens on the A Consagracao set). The transfers are variable but all watchable, and at any rate it’s the films that matter.

    The Blaq Out set should still be available from The Portugese sets can be found at (and you could also pick up the just-released TV version of Mysteries of Lisbon while you’re at it) but there’s also a third party seller on offering them.