|NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET (LA NOCHE DE ENFRENTE) (director/writer: Raul Ruiz; screenwriter: based on original stories by Hernán del Solar; cinematographer: Inti Briones; editors: Valeria Sarmiento/Raul Ruiz/Christian Aspee; music: Jorge Arriagada; cast: Sergio Hernandez (Don Celso Barra), Christian Vadim (Jean Giono), Pedro Villagra (Captain Long John Silver), Valentina Vargad (Nigilda), Chamila Rodriguez (Rosina), Santiago Figueroa (Celso, as a young boy), Sergio Schmied (Beethoven); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Christian Aspee/François Margolin; Cinema Guild; 2012-France/Chilein Spanish and French, with English subtitles)|
|"The arty, poignant and thought-provoking
sentimental film, about life as a never-ending
journey, should appeal mostly to Ruiz's devoted
by Dennis Schwartz
in France in exile since the 1970s, for political
reasons, the 70-year-old prolific Chilean director
Raul Ruiz ("Top of the Whale"/"Three Crowns of
the Sailor"/"City of Pirates"), who made more than a
100 films, returns to shoot in his native Chile his
final film. It's an elegant, strange and enigmatic, surrealistic
pic, which was released after his death in 2011. It's
inspired from the children's short
story writings of Chilean author Hernán del Solar.
The arty, poignant and thought-provoking sentimental
film, about life as a never-ending journey, examines
the art of dying. It's a playful dramatic film, that
should appeal mostly to Ruiz's devoted fan base and
has little chance of reaching a commercial
audience. Though it could be a special treat for the
uninitiated who are not afraid to take in a film
that is markedly unique and difficult to fully
comprehend because it's so
intellectually elusive and personal.
In the port of Antofagasta, the elderly dying bachelor
office worker Don Celso Barra (Sergio Hernández), the
director's alter-ego, is a dreamer experiencing a
premonition about his impending death (in real-life
the director had a liver transplant the year before)
and is forced to retire. Thereby Celso begins bizarre
imaginary conversations from his past, starting with himself as a child (Santiago Figueroa) conversing with the
renown French writer-cum-poetry-teacher Jean Giono
(Christian Vadim), someone who never stepped foot in
Chile. Also with the subversive poet Giono when
Celso's old and letting us see how much he always
loved the intricacies of language and is thanking the
venerable poet for giving him a heads up on poetry.
Other fantasies involve Celso listening to the
fictional pirate Captain Long John Silver (Pedro Villagra) spin some wild yarns
about life at sea, which gave him life lessons early
on to live a robust life no matter his circumstances.
The one he calls his favorite historical figure, Beethoven (Sergio Schmied), appears in person and
they touch base when Celso takes in the 20th century
his musician hero to the cinema and has him asking
questions about the medium.
Other visions are personal
about Celso worrying about being assassinated by a
mysterious figure, the possible massacre in a boarding
house he was staying at, suicides of friends, grudges
with old rivals, possible romantic entanglements, and
political conflicts that lingered on from his youth.
I couldn't help feeling a sense of loss that this great artistic filmmaker would no longer be with us to turn out his wonderfully arcane pics that I always looked forward to. This haunting, imaginative and exuberant metaphoric film, like all of Ruiz's triumphs, lets us know with clarity that “Without ideas, you’ll lose your youth.”
REVIEWED ON 10/22/2013 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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