Raoul Ruiz, a highly regarded director of more than 100 films in several different languages, has died at the age of 70. Ruiz had been recovering from a liver transplant after being diagnosed with a cancerous tumor of the liver while shooting the recent Mysteries Of Lisbon (for which he won France’s Louis Delluc Prize). He died of a pulmonary infection, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Ruiz was raised in Chile, but relocated to France in 1973 to escape Pinochet’s regime. There he found a welcoming atmosphere for his stylistic approach to filmmaking, which was often called surreal and whimsical for its rejection of narrative logic and love of the strange, yet it was also grounded in genuine, nuanced emotion and informed by Ruiz’s deep, omnivorous appreciation for history, literature, philosophy, and sociological observation. Throughout his long career, Ruiz directed movies based on works by Marcel Proust and Nathaniel Hawthorne, cast frequent collaborator John Malkovich in a biopic of painter Gustav Klimt, played with fantasies of pirates and mystical creatures, and dabbled in experiments that mocked cinematic conventions, such as his satire of American police procedurals, The Golden Boat (featuring cameos from Jim Jarmusch and Annie Sprinkle). His films, philosophical yet playful, often deal with the nature of truth and perception while utilizing the notions of parallel realities and identities; few were as willing to toy with the viewer on such a consistent basis.
In a fortuitous yet sad coincidence, only a few weeks ago The New York Times’ A.O. Scott published a loving and in-depth interview with Ruiz. Scott probably summed it up best when he said of Ruiz’s films, “In his universe, improbability is the rule,” while comparing the discovery of his work to “stumbling into a secret room in an old, echoey mansion.” That profile serves as a much better introduction to Ruiz’s work than we could offer here, considering most of it comes from Ruiz himself, so we highly encourage you to read it.
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