Monday, September 19, 2011

Mysteries of Lisbon (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)
Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Genre: Drama
Director: Raúl Ruiz
Starring: Adriano Luz, Maria João Bastos, Ricardo Pereira, Clotilde Hesme, José Afonso Pimentel, João Arrais
Duration: 272 min.
Rating: 7.6  

The core story centers on Joao, the bastard child of an ill-fated romance between two members of the aristocracy who are forbidden to marry, and his quest to discover the truth of his parentage. But this is just the start of an engrossing tale that follows a multitude of characters whose fates conjoin, separate and then rejoin again over three decades in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy.

Mysteries of Lisbon is the final film from the late Chilean director Raúl Ruiz (July 25, 1941 - August 19, 2011), adapted from the novel Os Mistérios de Lisboa by Camilo Castelo Branco.  It premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.  It was also awarded the prestigious Prix Louis Delluc in 2010, the annual award for best film as selected by a jury of French critics.

Set mainly in 19th-century Portugal, the film starts out with the story of a young bastard boy named João (João Arrais) eager to learn about his parentage.   The mystery of his origin is slowly revealed to him by his caretaker, the quiet and kind Father Dinis (Adriano Luz), a man with his own secretive past.  As João's story unfolds, a tangled web of characters and stories, mostly tragic, comes to light.  Among them there's a Brazilian pirate who calls himself Knife Eater (Ricardo Pereira), and the beautiful orphaned aristocrat Elisa de Montfort (Clotilde Hesme) whose only goal in life is to avenge the death of her twin brother.  The epic film branches out to follow each of their own mysteries until finally returning back to João many years later as an adult (José Afonso Pimentel).

It's long and it's melodramatic but it never gets boring nor do the stories ever turn too cloying.  Ruiz masterfully handles the complex narrative, weaving lengthy flashbacks in and out deftly with the present, and unpredictably taking minor characters in one part of the story to become the focus of the next.  In places, both the cinematography and the direction reminded me of a Jacques Rivette film, the camera kept still and at a distance for several minutes as the lengthy and elaborate theatrics unfold within the frame.  In others, various cinematic tricks are used to show objects and characters that have been kept hidden (to the audience) in the corner of a room.  It's easy to get lost in the atmosphere created by the wonderful art direction, filled with meticulously decorated sets and costumes.

It can be difficult to follow at times, with so many characters and names to keep track of, and some of the intricate connecting threads are a little too convenient, but overall the storytelling is captivating and moving just like a fine novel, and makes for a worthy and magical swan song for a great director.

Bonjour Tristesse

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)

Mysteries of Lisbon • Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)


Bonjour Tristesse said...


Bonjour Tristesse said...

No worries, most people prefer them that way too.  I guess I'm a weirdo who likes long films.

-E- said...

looks a bit too costume drama-y for me. said...

I've heard great things about this one.  I really want to see it.

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

Hmmm, watching the trailer this movie looks to be entertaining but I couldn't help but wonder if that song in the background is the one from those diamond commercials.

d_4 said...

I think this would be an easy watch. A good  film that you don't have to really be ready for, nothing too serious. Which is what I'd like sometimes.

The Reel Foto said...

sounds delicious! i'll look for it. :)

Will said...

I've had my eye on this for quite a while, but 4 hours is too precious to spend. I've always believed that films, no matter how great, should be two hours or less (I dunno, that's how I dig things), but of course, this could prove me wrong.

FrontRoomCinema said...

I must admit I am not the best at English speaking period dramas, so I guess I would be worse at this!! 

Happy Monday BT

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Personally I love long films, but Portugal made a wise choice because 4 1/2 hours is too long for an awards contender.  You could spread it out even more if you like, this was originally aired as a 6 part TV miniseries, and cut down for theatrical release.

NeverTooEarlyMP said...

Great review. At one point I'd heard that this might get submitted for the Oscars, but it doesn't look that way now. I think 272 minutes might be too long for me to sit though, though. Maybe I should spread it over two nights?

Unknown said...

Mysteries of Lisbon (2010): Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz' Dickensian drama about lust, honor, jealousy, and compassion

My most in-depth and exhaustively researched review till date. I hope you like it.

Here's the link:

P.S. Thoroughly enjoyed reading you review, as always!

Post a Comment