The nightfall is also a goodbye

Liomán Lima of the 2013 Guadalajara Talent Press reviews Raúl Ruiz' unfinished film project LA NOCHE DE ENFRENTE.


The night of the 19th August, 2011, Raúl Ruiz went out of the montage studio in his house in Paris to start an ultimate journey to death. His unfinished film project LA NOCHE DE ENFRENTE was found on his editing table; he took six more film projects to the grave. Before midnight a local channel announced the unfortunate story. The next day, the cultural section of international media informed the cause of death: he had lung trouble. Something as simple as a cold.

Raúl Ruiz was gone, and his death meant also the end of an era of great accursed geniuses who were born in exile, whose screams were shouted down due to the dictatorship in Chile. The end of that era had started nine years before, when Roberto Bolaño died in Spain. Both of them suffered liver cancer. The writer died waiting for the possibility of a transplant. The filmmaker received a liver ("from a black 32 year old donor" - he used to said, due to the strength it gave him); one year after that he died of a cold. Both left unfinished works. 2666, the posthumous work of Bolaño was to literature what LA NOCHE DE ENFRENTE was to cinema: a swan's dying song, an incomplete testament, a sepulchral bible for future admirers, a mysterious resurrection, an intent to rescue overthrowing art; an art capable of scandalize and advert. 2666 and LA NOCHE... were the last unbridled deliriums of the feverish imaginations of Bolaño and Ruiz. Both worked until dDeath, one of their favorite characters, came to put down the final point, the final cut.

With this unfinished film, the most prolific filmmaker that America has seen became part of the myth, worthy of the Cinema Requiem; he became member of a group that, like Mozart, was unable to finish a work in progress: John Ford and his 7 WOMEN, Carl Dreyer and GERTRUD, Bresson and L'ARGENT, Kubrick and EYES WDE SHUT, Tarkovski and SACRIFICE, Andrzej Munk and THE PASSENGER...

The same way as many other works that by chance or by coincidence, or by our eagerness, we discover as a last will of a Cinema Messiah, LA NOCHE DE ENFRENTE is a summary of all topics, all obsessions, all creatures and surrealist visions of everyday life that marked Ruiz’s works. In this film, the author repeats his most frequent subjects. Like in TRES TRSTES TIGRES (1968), he resorted to literature (this time, he turned to the short stories of the Chilean writer Hernán del Solar); he rescued the childhood and death symbols. He gave voice to a dying character that remembers his life (MISTERIOS DE LISBOA), to a man that encounters the child he was (TROIS VIES ET UNE SEULE MORT). He even appealed to his distinctive techniques: unconventional angles, plenty of close-ups, large sequences, innovative color and a giddy montage that cancels out the timeline...

The film is about the sad existential apathy of Don Celso (Sergio Hernández), a sickly office worker who is about to retire and starts to remember the most important moments of his existence: his childhood and his old age. The beginning and the end of life. The rest, the adulthood is just a transition moment, a necessary process between both fundamental and painful events.

The real and imaginary memories of Celso, the life he had and the life he would have liked to have, the people he met and the people he would have liked to meet; everything mixed in two hours of uncontrolled narrative which leads us to a fantasy. Narrative lines cross, time and reality levels switch over and, suddenly, we witness a cinema session of the lead character, he is watching Beethoven... we see him while he listens to fantastic short stories, or when he attends language classes... with Jean Giono. LA NOCHE... is a genre pastiche, kind of an infinite Chinese box in which many stories are hidden and once you find out one, many others appear, with new characters, new adventures and emotions that unfailingly lead to death.

This story, apparently illogical and without order, arranges the inexplicable formulas of the memory; memories are nothing but a scream of nostalgia, a silent tribute to cinema's power to subvert the routine; and above all, a sublime metaphor of a sin without possible absolution, a great lie: the time that goes by. Actually time is another character of the film, another element that moves and goes back, holds action and takes to a dénouement. The film takes ages, and time seems not to pass (not in the plot, nor for the spectator). The unfocused story of Don Celso has no logic, the script is not conventional at all; Ruiz is trying to deny his past, or does he want to make us face the constant presence of the past?

Such is this versatile film from the twilight of his life, "In search of lost time" but without the Madeleine, full of winks and traps for the spectator, full of impulses and concerns, taunts and mysteries; as if each step of the character from one scene to another, from each space to another, could open a hidden dimension to the unknown.

However, despite this vivid avant-garde vocation, this film is pure decay. The ideas, the subjects and the structure seem to be evidence for the end of a cycle; just nonsense compared to MISTERIOS DE LISBOA. Maybe, the same fear of Don Celso took possession of Ruiz, a mournful heart bear, a gloomy advice of time coming to an end... and the alarm clock is going to ring for the last time. LA NOCHE DE ENFRENTE may seem boring, everlastingly slow, ingenious, absurd and sad, but as any other farewell or other after-love events, the chants of memory are defeated by time. By time, by the nightfall and by death.