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MYSTERIES OF LISBON

Director: RAÚL RUIZ

272 minutes| Portugal-France| 2010| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema


Having availed us with a magnificent Marcel Proust adaptation in 1999’s Time Regained, prolific Chilean surrealist Raúl Ruiz now caps his cinematic career with this head-swirling and intoxicating 19th-century drama from the three-volume novel by Camilo Castelo Branco, a sort of Portuguese Charles Dickens.

It begins with an orphan named João, who’s being raised by a kindly priest. The boy’s aristocratic mother visits him in secret, and he’s keen to know who his father was. That’s where everything gets complicated – hence the 272-minute running time! -– as one revelation leads to another, everyone has a story to tell, and soon clandestine affairs, class tensions, moral dilemmas and multi-layered identities send us into a sort of narrative delirium. It’s both a rollicking period soap-opera and a provocative meditation on the elusive nature of truth, crammed with images of subtle beauty and directed with a kind of suave playfulness. Ruiz died last August, but here he’s left us the finest celluloid literary drama since Barry Lyndon. Don’t miss. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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