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Mysteries of Lisbon

Alexandro · 5 · 1565

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on: July 01, 2012, 11:50:31 AM

Couldn't find a thread for this, so I'm assuming no one has seen it.
I knew Raoul Ruiz by name but had never seen any of his 100 plus films. This has to be his crowning achievement because it's a true masterpiece. Granted a difficult one, but despite my reservations I just couldn't avoid being BLOWN AWAY by it.

Epic in every aspect you can think of, the film takes an old portuguese novel and weaves a multitude of stories around the aristocratic and noble class of Portugal, follows a bunch of characters through several countries and decades, with a cool, distant style that enables the ultra dramatic situations to become dark humored. The film takes a good 260 minutes to tell so many different anecdotes, flashbacks within flashbacks, all about the absurdity of the "noble" universe, where the appearance of honor was certainly more important than honor itself. The labyrinthian way the film develops it's world makes it at times hard to follow, and to be honest I got lost a bit. But the film is made with an undeniable mastery. There many moments where I literally had to stop it and go back a few minutes because the camerawork and misce en scene were so prodigious yet never showy, that I just stopped paying attention. The film is full of weird shots, complicated camera setups and movements, visual solutions, deep focus compositions, beautiful images all around, I'd say this is one of those films where literally every frame is masterful. And yet it always feels like a classic narrative movie. Just for the cinematography alone I would recommend it.

Here ís the trailer:

chere mill

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Reply #1 on: July 01, 2012, 12:18:33 PM
i concur. it's really something else.


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Reply #2 on: November 17, 2013, 02:26:06 PM
This is a remarkable film, could be one of my favorites if I get my head around it.


First of all it looks gorgeous, almost every scene looks like painting - compositions are that great with a huge amount of detail (deep focus etc). There is very little to none of camera coverage, instead scenes are constructed from very few, long master shots. Camera slowly glides (that is fitting word) most of the time, with few exceptions where it conveys emotions of specific character. Dolly, steadicam, cranes - those are used extensively, almost exclusively.

There is little regard towards continuity, as example: camera rotates 90 degree right-wise, then goes back and we got new character in a room, where you could be sure that doors were closed. It is used to great extend - mysterious things are happening all the time. Sometimes characters freeze altogether in the middle of the scene, creating a painting that deepens emotions evoked by scene. Actors beside main cast are used very often as furniture - staring at scene and finishing composition.

Editing isn't afraid of holding wide shot for almost whole scene. Many situations are implied by the things we see in far background. Close-ups are scarce on other hand. All those elements contribute to beautiful cinematography, that makes film worth seeing for its sake.


Cinematography doesn't exist in its own realm, which sometimes happens with beautiful movies. Weird looking scenes can be explained by emotions of a characters or unreliable narrator. Whole film is constructed from flash-backs and flash-forwards - sometimes it is hard to establish a timeline. Not only cinematography complements story, but it also competes with it. I was torn apart on more than one occasion by the need of enjoying just picture in its whole beauty and keeping up with narratives.

I felt that first hour was bit slow paced... how wrong I was. Minor characters have weird way of coming back and details are relevant later. One narrative explodes into multiple others and then merges back making circles, creating labyrinth-like structure, to the point where is is easy to lose track what is going on.

What I find interesting is amount of humor: plenty of silly scenes, which are bit illogical. One character has almost slap-stick quality in itself and adventures that happen to him are not far from comedy - dark comedy to be accurate. There are moments where barrier between audience and medium is broken, which implies further that film doesn't take itself seriously all the time.

Story is told very often visually - small glimpse can be very significant. Long and troubling relations between characters can be explained by few minutes long scene, which is testimony to the quality of the film. Another reason I liked it so much: it was originally planed as TV series and it feels like mini-series lasting around 270 minutes. It is hard to find any structure that would remind typical movie.

"Mysteries of Lisbon" will occupy my mind for few more days, that I'm sure of.
Simple mind - simple pleasures...


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Reply #3 on: November 19, 2013, 10:15:15 AM
I was torn apart on more than one occasion by the need of enjoying just picture in its whole beauty and keeping up with narratives.

This is what happened to me while watching. I lost focus on the film itself because the mise en scene was so inventive, yet austere and unexpected, that I kept thinking "man, how they came up with these setups for an entire scene". And I had to stop the film and rewind it to see the scene again and pay attention to the scene itself.

I can't believe not many xixaxers have seen this.


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Reply #4 on: November 19, 2013, 03:00:42 PM
ruiz is definitely one of my favorite filmmakers. he's so ridiculously prolific yet so little known in the states. this film is a little different from his earlier efforts, which if i had to be honest, i prefer to this. this film is a masterpiece, but i like his more surreal, less refined shit much more. i recommend heavily heavily:
- The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (one of the greatest surrealist works of all time)
- Three Lives and Only One Death
- The Golden Boat (pairs nicely with scorseses after hours, also insane score by john zorn)
- Genealogies of a Crime