Daniel Kasman in MUBI’s Notebook: “Sometimes I think Raúl Ruiz purposefully makes in-between-masterpieces, inconsistent but immensely interesting films engrossed in both the details and the big picture of elaborating with variations and digressions books, histories, myths and the director’s own films; that masterpieces are a calculated anomaly, unusually vivid and vivacious crescendos of the on-going dream that is the master’s body of work. La noche de enfrente, presented in the Directors’ Fortnight, is said to be Ruiz’s last film, but I have a suspicion that more dreams will show up unexpectedly, like Bolaño novels. Coming after Ruiz’s popular triumph Mysteries of Lisbon this new work may be bound for disappointment, as it resembles so many of the director’s films of the 2000s… Then again, Ruiz’s films have always seemed of a piece, one long tracking shot through rooms within rooms, each room a film or a possible film…. The consistent sense is of movement, even if lugubrious, viscously dreamy, a camera passing around a space, one image leading mysteriously to another.”
Jonathan Romney for Sight & Sound: “Many people regarded his Portuguese epic Mysteries of Lisbon as his valediction, given that it was preoccupied with the idea of wrapping up the narratives and legends of a person’s lifespan (but then, so were many of his films). Lisbon may have been his last major film, his Testament with a capital C, if you like, but La noche de enfrente is, as it were, a codicil to the will, and a fond farewell note. A rather abstract quasi-narrative, in keeping with some of Ruiz’s French films of the 80s, the film is ostensibly about an elderly Chilean, Don Celso, who, on retiring from his office job (in which he seems to have found the secret ‘of working and relaxing at the same time’), awaits the arrival of the mysterious stranger who will before long kill him…. The film is very much the proverbial ‘poem in images,’ and a truly free-associative one, in vintage Ruiz style.”
Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter: “Inspired by the writings of fellow Chilean Hernan del Solar, the Santiago-shot drama spans several decades (roughly throughout the mid-to-late 20th century, though that’s never exactly clear) and jumps back and forth in time with little concern for the traditional laws of storytelling. Indeed, as the film’s aging hero, Don Celso (Sergio Hernandez) remarks, time is like a ‘game of marbles,’ and the sentiment very much summarizes Ruiz’s freewheeling approach to narrative, which is on ample display in the scenario’s multiple crisscrossing plotlines, flashbacks, dreams and fantasies.”
Jordan Cronk for PopMatters: “Despite the more intimate locales of La noche, Ruiz still manages to display an array of his stylistic tricks either indoors or across the sun-drenched coasts of Chile, from color filters to deep focus photography to rear projection/moving walkway tracking shots to split diopter compositions to techniques that probably still have yet to be defined. Many of the less flamboyant opening scenes remind me a bit of the late work of Luchino Visconti, in both physical limitations and color palette (lots of browns and warm shades), but these intimate gestures from a seemingly resigned veteran soon prove to be a red herring, as the final thirty minutes of the film expand into a succession of exaggerated set pieces and playfully rendered analogue effects sequences reminiscent of the man’s mid-80s peak. Disorienting, nostalgic, and mournful, but alive with personality and an undying exuberance, La noche de enfrente is Ruiz’s last will and testament, a beautiful, affecting bookend to a career that never stood still.”
The Directors’ Fortnight posts an untranslated interview with Ruiz’s widow and editor, Valeria Sarmiento, and Christian Vadim, who plays Jean Giono, who, as Jonathan Romney points out, “may or may not be the novelist of the same name.” You can also watch the Q&A.
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