Screened as part of NZIFF 2013
When he died in 2011, the great Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz (Time Regained) was already planning a follow-up to his magnum opus, Mysteries of Lisbon. We are very fortunate that his widow and long-time collaborator, Valeria Sarmiento, took the reins and completed the project.
It’s 1810 and Napoleon’s forces have invaded Portugal, driving back the Portuguese and British troops, along with various spies, deserters and partisans, innumerable displaced locals, and a handful of even more displaced foreigners. We follow a ragtag collection of such characters as they wend their way back to the fortifications surrounding Lisbon, one step ahead of what seems certain to be a catastrophically bloody conflict.The tone of the film – understandably, given the storyline – is much more sombre than that of Mysteries of Lisbon, but Sarmiento somehow manages to pull off the rare trick of making a brisk epic, with a densely interwoven narrative that never gets bogged down in individual melodrama and is peppered with cameos from the great and good (Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, John Malkovich, Marisa Paredes, Mathieu Amalric), all paying tribute to their own relationships with Ruiz. This rich tapestry is rendered in a handsome, painterly style that lightly evokes oils of the period without becoming slavish or static. — Andrew Langridge
“A fine, rich, humanist tapestry… [It is] safe to assume that Valeria Sarmiento’s film follows the plans of her late husband Raúl Ruiz in its broad sweep, a grand design made up of dozens of miniaturist brush strokes, discrete vignettes that multiply across an epic canvas.” — Tom Charity, Cinema Scope