If you don’t know the name Raúl Ruiz, the upcoming retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, will make sure you don’t forget it. The Chilean auteur, who would have celebrated his 75th birthday this year, made a career out of producing hypnotic and inventive films that pushed the form of cinema near its breaking point. If you have yet to encounter one of his films, there’s no excuse now.
In “Life is a Dream: The Films of Raúl Ruiz” New York audiences will get a chance to revisit some the full range of the director’s vision. With films that cross borders and genres with abandon — from his feature debut in Chile (1968’s Three Sad Tigers) to his Catherine Deneuve-starring Marcel Proust adaptation (1999’s Time Regained) — the first part of this retrospective is a chance to see the work of one of the most renowned Latin American auteurs.
Ruiz, who began his career in his native Chile where he set himself apart from the more politically oriented filmmakers at the time, ended up relocating to Paris with his wife and frequent collaborator, Valeria Sarmiento. The reason, of course, was the coup d’etat that put Augusto Pinochet in power. In Europe, the director set free his literary and dream-like fantasies, creating features that defied labels and which had him produce films in French (Three Lives and Only One Death), English (The Golden Boat), Spanish (La Recta Provincia) and even Portuguese (Mysteries of Lisbon). He adapted impossibly to adapt novels, turned Chilean folklore into hard-to-follow narratives, and even created internationally-acclaimed transnational miniseries that spanned Brazil, Portugal, France and Italy. What binds these projects together is Ruiz’s playful, even surrealist, sensibility that is as interested in telling a story as it is in dismantling what a story can or should be.
Life is a Dream: The Films of Raúl Ruiz (Part 1) runs at the Film Society of Lincoln Center December 2-22, 2016 in Manhattan.