Mysteries of Lisbon DVD
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Directed by Raul Ruiz
Produced in 2010
Main Language - Portuguese / French with English subtitles
Clotilde Hesme, Adriano Luz, Maria Joao Bastos, Ricardo Pereira, Jose Afonso Pimentel
A glorious banquet of cinema that is playful, cryptic, romantic, magical and haunting. If you have any interest in what movies can do in 2012, you need to see this, says James Oliver.
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.
James Oliver on 20th February 2012
Author of 146 reviews
A veritable whirlwind of adventures and escapades, coincidences and revelations, sentiments and violent passions, vengeance and love affairs, Mysteries of Lisbon is wrapped in a rhapsodic voyage that takes us from Portugal to France, Italy, and as far as Brazil.
We encounter a series of characters all linked to the destiny of Pedro da Silva, an orphan in a boarding school. Father Dinis, a descendant of aristocratic libertines who later becomes a hero who defends justice, a countess maddened by her jealousy and set on her vengeance, a prosperous businessman who had mysteriously made his fortune as a bloodthirsty pirate; these and many more all cross in a richly-plotted story that searches for the true identity of our main character.
Publisher: New Wave Films
Length: 266 mins
Cat No: NW030
Format: DVD Colour
Subtitles: Subtitle options throughout film and bonus disc: English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
- 3 discs
- Filmed Interviews with Raúl Ruiz, scriptwriter Carlos Saboga, actors Maria João Bastos, Adriano Luz and Ricardo Pereira and cinematographer André Szankowski
- 8 deleted scenes
- 2 Radio Interviews with Raúl Ruiz
- San Sebastian festival report
- Portuguese TV programme about the film and the author Camilo Castelo Branco
- Photo Gallery.