DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews


 
MYSTERIES OF LISBON (MISTERIOS DE LISBOA) (director: Raul Ruiz; screenwriters: from the book by Camilo Castelo Branco/Carlos Saboga; cinematographer: André Szankowski; editors: Carlos Madaleno/Valeria Sarmiento; music: Jorge Arriagada; cast: Adriano Luz (Father Dinis), Maria João Bastos (Ângela de Lima), Ricardo Pereira (Alberto de Magalhães), Afonso Pimentel (Pedro da Silva), João Luis Arrais (the young Pedro da Silva), Clotilde Hesme (Elisa de Montfort), João Baptista (D. Pedro da Silva), Léa Seydoux (Blanche de Montfort), Melvil Poupaud (Col. Ernest Lacroze), Malik Zidi (Viscount of Armagnac), São José Correia (Anacleta dos Remédios), Rui Morrison (Marquês de Montezelos); Runtime: 266; MPAA Rating: NR producer: Paulo Branco; Alfama Films; 2010-Portugal-in Portuguese, French and English with English subtitles)

"It was easy to lose focus and turn off such a sprawling discursive work."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The final film of exiled Chilean director Raul Ruiz ("Klimt"/"Blind Revenge"/"Shattered Image"), who died in Paris, at age 70, on August of 2011, is a daunting but challenging watch. The 19th-century epic was too exhausting to be fully appreciated (at least by me), as it's filled with endless tales within tales and flashbacks-within-flashbacks that make things convoluted. Yet it effortlessly kept its story going for four-and-a-half-hours by relying on plot twists and all sorts of machinations like concealed identities and unexpected confessions to keep the viewer in the dark. It was made for European television as a six-part miniseries, and perhaps comes up smelling sweeter to the viewer who caught it on TV.

The respected arcane filmmaker made "Mysteries" as a straightforward but gimmicky tale (the storytelling was done in a novel way) about a 14-year-old bastard orphan named João (João Luis Arrais), later to be known by his real name of Pedro da Silva (Afonso Pimentel), and his search for his origins--a search that reveals guarded secrets and takes us into the intrigues of Lisbon, France, Italy and Brazil. The search makes the loner kid more anguished and alienated the more he finds out of his past. It starts with João seeking to meet his aristocratic countess mother Angela (Maria João Bastos) and does so with the help of a kindly mysterious priest (Adriano Luz), who has hidden him for protection in his religious boarding school. Along the way there's the French Revolution, love triangles, a visit to the nunnery, and edgy reflections on aristocrats, servants and the nouveau riche. The clergy are deified as the saviors of adventurers and as the bedrock of literature. It's the kind of film that seems to look down on the viewer who can't keep up with its cerebral pretenses and who becomes dizzy from all the odd coincidences and how so many of the characters become part of world history events.

The overlong, lush and chatty film on lost love and lost time is based on prolific 19th-century Portuguese novelist Camilo Castelo Branco's tome and is written by Carlos Saboga to possibly go on forever if allowed, making it too much of a task to even try to summarize such a sweeping tale and too cumbersome to get to all the characters and subplots without adding to the confusion of the presentation. Though well-acted, stunningly photographed with rich imagery and ably directed, there's no compelling figure in the story to keep us interested in what happens. It was easy to lose focus and turn off such a sprawling discursive work while, at the same time, feeling guilty of possibly overlooking it as a great work.

REVIEWED ON 10/13/2011       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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