Mysteries of Lisbon

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Mistérios de Lisboa

“A masterpiece by Ruiz… shot in gorgeous colours and constantly surprising by the twists of its plot.” — Michel Ciment, Sight & Sound

Director: Raul Ruiz
Year: 2010
Country: France, Portugal
Running time: 272 mins
Censor Rating: M - content may disturb

Producer: Paulo Branco
Screenplay: Carlos Saboga. Based on the novel by Camilo Castelo Branco
Photography: André Szankowski
Editors: Valéria Sarmiento, Carlos Madaleno
Music: Jorge Arriagada, Luís Freitas Branco

In Portuguese, French and English, with English subtitles


With: Adriano Luz (Father Dinis), Maria João Bastos (Ângela de Lima), Ricardo Pereira (Alberto de Magalhães), Clotilde Hesme (Elisa de Montfort), Afonso Pimentel (Pedro da Silva), João Luís Arrais (Pedro da Silva, child), Albano Jerónimo (Count of Santa Bárbara), João Baptista (D. Pedro da Silva), Martin Loizillon (Sebastião de Melo)

Festivals: Toronto, San Sebastián, Vancouver, New York, London 2010; San Francisco 2011

Raúl Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon is one of the wonders of the year, a sumptuous epic immersion in the romantic intrigues and perfidies of 19th-century Portuguese nobility, priests and pirates. The labyrinthine plot begins with a teenage orphan, who through revelations about the people around him unlocks the secret of his own patrimony. Rife with false identities, stories within stories and surreal twists of fate, the film is opulently realised in breathtaking HD, and savours narrative conventions and fatal coincidences with the sardonic wisdom of a master storyteller. — BG

“From the first strings of the swoony, old-fashioned score by veteran composer Jorge Arriagada over the opening credits, it’s clear that Ruiz wishes to envelop the viewer in lush, traditional storytelling… He has the perfect artistic temperament for the kind of epically layered filmmaking [required for] a film of Camilo Castelo Branco’s 1852 novel, a beloved Borgesian classic of Portuguese literature little known to English-language readers. His tendency toward the baroque is tempered by a literate approach to character and a stately aesthetic…

Despite all the shifting identities this is no tale of trickery or deception – rather these are the vicissitudes of life, on high and down below, and Ruiz’s film paints on a large enough canvas to capture it all, in vivid, telling detail. Though it may seem daunting, the size of the film is its chief pleasure. There’s so much room to parry and maneuver, so many doors (some literal) to unlock, secrets and coincidences to be in thrall to.” — Michael Koresky, Reverse Shot 

“...saga of intrigue and passion encircling Portuguese nobility strutting and fretting across the stage of life, justifying its 4 1/2 hours with a sprawlingly good story and muted, painterly beauty.” — Helene Wong, New Zealand Listener

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