- Raúl Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon is 272-minutes of cinematic force. If Three Crowns of the Sailor is Ruiz’s The Lady from Shanghai then Mysteries of Lisbon is his Barry Lyndon.
- An epic story- the length of the running time and use of voiceover give it a novelistic feel. The orphanage setting makes it feel a little like Dickens.
- Ruiz remains a master of both camera movement and screen composition. His untethered camera will often gracefully swing around a room, capture a frame, move again, and reframe. This framing and reframing within the same shot is Renoir.
- Early role for the great Léa Seydoux. She has a smaller role as Blanche de Montfort- pretty believable that many a man would lose their hearts to her.
- Ruiz’s camera glides through walls with the count and countess as he threatens her life at the 18-minute mark.
- With the saintly (for a time) mother and the evil step-father (and again the running time) there are elements that compare it to Bergman’s epic Fanny and Alexander.
- It is a never lags- but, like Three Crowns– it can be a labyrinth. In one sequence a letter is being read by the father in a story by the priest and that is all within him telling his own story. Tough not to giggle a little when the priest says “this story has gone on for far too long and it’s late.”
- Sublime split diopter work- one such shot at the 47-minute mark with the countess in the foreground. Her head is facing the camera and she is located on screen left. But she is laid out and horizonal.
- Another split at the 61-minute mark The countess is laying down in the background. Yet another at the 73-minute mark with the parrot foreground left.
Sublime split diopter work
- One of the standout sequences starts at the 80-minute mark at the ball—the camera starts with the Marquee and then Ruiz’s camera changes partners. There is only one cut in six minutes of this twirling on the dancefloor. Later an entire duel (Barry Lyndon) is shot in one long, miraculous shot. Later a childbirth will take place in one long take. There is a dedication to the aesthetic here. Ruiz will later take his time descending the stairs in one long take as well.
Ruiz captures an entire duel in one, splendid take
- The story is divided into two distinct sections. The second starts with the old monk’s long tale. Ruiz’s dedication to cinema style despite the running time must be praised, studied and marveled at—hours into the film he is still playful- there is a double dolly shot. Later his camera ducks out from behind the curtains.
The handsome décor and production design is captured in long, rhythmic takes throughout.
45-minutes into part two there is a low angle jaw-dropper of a shot of Alberto with the ceiling above. He rips up the paper and throws it on the camera. At the 55-minute mark the eavesdropping maid is in part of the frame (screen left) with Alberto framed by the doorway on the right.
A low-angle shot of the teacup at the 69-minute mark
- Melodramatic interconnected love affairs, webs containing lineage and chance meetings.
- A masterpiece