Mysteries of Lisbon View large image
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Film Details

Directed by: Raul Ruiz Raoul Ruiz

Produced: 2010

Countries & Regions: France, Portugal

DVD Details

Certificate: PG

Length: 266 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 12 March 2012

Cat No: NW030

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Mysteries of Lisbon

Cast: Rui Morrison , Clotilde Hesme , Adriano Luz , Maria Joao Bastos , Ricardo Pereira , Jose Afonso Pimentel , Carloto Cotta , Martin Loizillon , Albano Jerónimo , Joao Baptista , Julien Alluguette , Joana de Verona

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Portuguese filmmaker Raoul Ruiz directs this epic historical drama based on the book by 19th century romantic novelist Camilo Castelo... Read More




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Portuguese filmmaker Raoul Ruiz directs this epic historical drama based on the book by 19th century romantic novelist Camilo Castelo Branco. The film weaves a labyrinth of interconnected stories around the history and identity of orphan Pedro da Silva (Joao Arrais) and Padre Dinis (Adriano Luz), the priest who becomes his protector. When Pedro is visited during a feverish sleep by a woman claiming to be his mother (Maria Joao Bastos), a multi-layered journey into his past and the lives and loves of his predecessors begins to unfold layer by layer.

It would be horribly easy to make Mysteries of Lisbon sound – how shall we say? – off-putting. It's four-and-a-half hours long for a start. And in that time you have to keep track of about fifteen major characters as they dance through a storyline that defiantly resists easy summary and – wait.. where are you going?

Because if you miss this, you're passing up one of the most astounding films of recent years: a kaleidoscopic melodrama that's by turns playful, cryptic, romantic, magical and haunting. Adapted from a rip-snorting 19th century best-seller, this is no art-house endurance test but a glorious celebration of story-telling and cinema that remains consistently invigorating and entertaining throughout its epic running-time.

So what's it all about? Well, it starts with a small boy – Joāo – a resident at the orphanage administered by the kindly priest Father Dinis. When the lad is injured, he's visited by a mysterious woman who, he discovers, is his mother. From here, he learns the terrible secret of his parentage and real identity, thus inaugurating a tale that roams across continents and spans half a century as characters reinvent themselves and coincidences multiply.

It's a glorious banquet of a movie and served up with evident delight; this is one of the most sumptuously crafted and photographed films in recent years, with designs and lighting inspired by the paintings of the relevant era. Scenes are staged with long, flowing shots that prowl around the sets with a grace that allows us to savour the images in a way that's rare these days.

Director Raúl Ruiz died last year and Mysteries of Lisbon was his last (completed) film. It reveals him as one of the true masters, a filmmaker who could create a movie almost without precedent: we can liken it to the crazed serials of Louis Feuillade, the dizzying deconstructions of Jacques Rivette, or that glorious Polish fancy The Saragossa Manuscript but this is a film so singular and so remarkable that any comparisons are inadequate.

If you have any interest in what movies can do in 2012, you need to see this.

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