Rosenbaum comments on his evolving appreciation for Ruiz and comments on MYSTERIES OF LISBON:
Perversely, it was Point de fuite (1984), one of his weakest and emptiest films, that signaled his uniqueness to me more than the much livelier and more inventive City of Pirates (1983) when I saw both films in Rotterdam in 1984, because the sheer pointlessness of the former seemed as potentially fruitful as the radical denials of technique in early Luc Moullet, the cross-references of Jean-Luc Godard, the temporal suspensions of Jacques Rivette, and the endlessly prolific output of Andy Warhol, all of which could be construed as provocative responses to the usual capitalistic complacencies about craft and consumption.
But Ruiz’s “capitulation” also entailed a positive development that enriched his aesthetics even if it undermined some of his previous indifference regarding success or failure. Much of this was a matter of becoming interested in camera movements, which bigger budgets made more viable.
[ . . . ]
This achieves a kind of apotheosis in the masterful camera movements of Mysteries of Lisbon (2010) — especially those in interiors, where they sometimes implicitly suggest the viewpoints of servants — becoming an integral part of Ruiz’s mise en scène that deepens as well as sharpens Ruiz’s inquisitive skepticism about narrative itself (and which class it can sometimes belong to). It’s even possible that the mastery he achieves in this late work – not only in terms of both storytelling and visual pleasure, but also in emotional power (a relatively rare thing to be found in an oeuvre dominated by irony) – suggests that Ruiz’s two greatest works may both turn out to be Portuguese miniseries: namely the 152-minute Manoel on the Island of Wonders (1984) and the six-hour Mysteries of Lisbon (2010), shortened to four and a half hours in the theatrical version; together they ironically might be regarded as the least and best known of his major works. (Regarding the former, I can happily report that, although this Lewis Carroll-like fantasy has never been available commercially on video or DVD, it survives, according to Ruiz himself, in its original Portuguese form – which is the way that I initially saw it, at the Rotterdam Film Festival, where it was awarded a prize – at the Portuguese Cinémathèque, although it was also once shown on Australian television dubbed into French, with English subtitles. And both versions of Mistérios de Lisboa are happily already available in a Portuguese DVD box set.)
All of which suggests an extraordinary evolution on Ruiz’s part. Even if he arguably started out as a kind of low-rent Edgar G. Ulmer, he also, no less arguably, wound up as a kind of gilt-edged (or guilt-edged) Otto Preminger.
Edited by Ryan H., 02 November 2011 - 01:02 PM.