Raoul Ruiz


Personal Info

  • Birth Name: Raúl Ernesto Ruiz Pino
  • Date of Birth: July 25, 1941
  • Born in: Puerto Montt, Chile


Chilean director Raúl, or Raoul, Ruiz (1941-2011) was one of the most exciting and innovative filmmakers to emerge from 1960s World Cinema, providing more intellectual fun and artistic experimentation, shot for shot, than any filmmaker since Jean-Luc Godard. A guerrilla who uncompromisingly assaulted the preconceptions of film art, this frightfully prolific figure -he made over 100 films in 40 years- did not adhere to any one style of filmmaking. He worked in 35mm, 16mm and video, for theatrical release and for European TV, and on documentary and fiction features and shorts. His career began in avant-garde theatre where, between 1956 and 1962, he wrote over 100 plays. Although he never directed any of these productions, he did dabble in TV and filmmaking in the early 1960s. In 1968, with the release of his first completed feature, the Cassavetes-likeThree Sad Tigers (1968), Ruiz became one of the key Chilean directors of New Latin American Cinema. A committed though critical supporter of the Marxist government ofSalvador Allende, Ruiz was forced to flee his country after the fascist coup of 1973. Living in exile in Paris from that time onwards, he found a forum for his ideas in European TV and was championed by the critics of Cahiers du Cinéma, several of whom appeared in his first European successes, The Suspended Vocation (1978) and The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1978), two enigmatic Pierre Klossowski adaptations. Between 1980 and his death in 2011, Ruiz was one of the world’s most productive but least known auteurs, in part through a long-term working relationship with Portuguese producer Paulo Branco. Other regular collaborators included Ruiz’s wife and editor Valeria Sarmiento, composerJorge Arriagada, cinematographers Sacha Vierny, Henri Alekan and Ricardo Aronovich, writers Gilbert Adair and Pascal Bonitzer, and actor Melvil Poupaud. Key early works from this period included the surrealistic masterpieces Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983), City of Pirates (1983) and Manuel on the Island of Wonders (1984), three of his many French-Portuguese co-productions perversely yet charmingly addressing the recurring Ruizian themes of childhood, exile, and maritime and rural folklore. In the 1990s, Ruiz embarked on larger projects with prominent actors such as John Hurt, Marcello Mastroianni,Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert and John Malkovich, alternating this sporadic mainstream art-house endeavour with his usual low-budget experimental productions and the teaching of his Poetics of Cinema (two volumes of which he published in 1995 and 2007). In the 1990s and 2000s, he also shot several films and TV series’ in Chile, though usually without Chilean funding. Ruiz is beloved among cinephiles as a poet of oneiric imagery and a fabulist of labyrinthine stories-within-stories whose films slip effortlessly from reality to imagination and back again. A manipulator of wild intellectual games in which the rules are forever changing, Ruiz’s techniques were as varied as film itself; a collection of bizarre angles, close-ups and deep-focus compositions, bewildering POV shots, dazzling colours, and labyrinthine narratives which weave and dodge the viewer’s grasp with every shot. As original as Ruiz was, one can tell much about him by the diversity of his influences; he was clearly inspired by Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Louis Stevenson, Orson Welles, “Left Bank” New Wave directors such as Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, and baroque low-budget Hollywood B-movie directors like Edgar G. Ulmer, Ford Beebe and Reginald Le Borg. His erudition also extended to medieval theology, Renaissance theatre and quantum physics. Ruiz remains a much-admired auteur on the European continent, having won prestigious prizes at Cannes, Berlin, San Sebastián, Locarno, Rome and Rotterdam. He is little-known in his native Chile, however, despite having made the widely seen Little White Dove (1973), receiving several major arts prizes and having a National Day of Mourning dedicated to him on the day of his burial there. In the English-speaking world, only a handful of Ruiz’s films have been distributed and it is on these few films that his reputation there is built: most notably, major art-house fare such as the Ophüls- and Visconti-inspired Marcel Proust’s Time Regained (1999) but alsoComedy of Innocence (2000), Klimt (2006) and Mysteries of Lisbon (2010) and straight-to-video thriller pastiches like Shattered Image (1998) and Blind Revenge (2009). Little of his huge oeuvre is available on DVD. The works that are, however, bear witness to Ruiz’s unique genius.