This time last year I was braced for a difficult beginning to the San Francisco film fest. My selections were kicking off with MYSTERIES OF LISBON, a four-hour film from Raúl Ruiz, a filmmaker with whom I'd grappled in the past but never fully grasped. But LISBON blew me away - an epic tale of an orphan's rise from poverty into riches, with each encounter coloring, distorting, and sometimes completely changing his perceptions of events in his life. It turned out to be my favorite film of the year, leaving me eager for more.
The announcement of his death several months later left me strangely despondent, sad that the labyrinth of his work would, in fact, be finite. But there's still this huge body of work left to explore, to interpret, to get totally lost in. I'm still totally baffled by his work, but I don't feel like Ruiz is on my shoulder chiding me for not getting his references, for not being grounded in his history (his whimsical mazes are far more appealing to me than Godard's strident revolution). He's not randomly remaking film history and looking down on us for not Getting It - he's coming at cinema from a completely new place, challenging us to see the world as he sees it.
After sampling part of a reverent but by no means comprehensive series at PFA these last few weeks, I feel like Ruiz has become a favorite filmmaker. I didn't love, or even like, everything I saw in the series (The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting was a standout, with its sensuous art mystery and stellar Sacha Vierny photography) and, optimistically, I didn't make an effort to devour the whole thing. Because even though Ruiz' oeuvre is vast (and I suspect more than twice the 120-odd titles that Wiki and IMDB list), I want to take my time through this labyrinth, and savor each step. Because it's already showed me so much, and expanded my cinematic consciousness in a way that feels like it enriches everything. Because when I do make a connection in Ruiz' oeuvre, it's like a light shining through a freshly opened window, through which Ruiz is still smiling back at us.
Attached here is a neatly concise (and suitably contrarian) documentary on his work, followed by a fifteen-minute short. I hope you'll give it half an hour: Though picked at random, it captures so much of what I love about his work.