Celso Barra is one of those film noir paper-pushers. Waxing nostalgic, he is fully aware of his
approaching retirement, in every sense, including the most permanent one. Language and narrative will be twisted like
pretzels in Raúl Ruiz’s final film, Night
Across the Street (trailer
screens as a main slate selection of the 50th New York Film Festival.
Celso studies poetry with French expat Jean Giono (who seems to bear little
resemblance to his Horseman on the Roof novelist
namesake), with whom he has struck up a friendship of outsiders. Over coffee, Barra tells the poet stories of
his childhood, featuring characters (including Long John Silver) who inject
themselves into the ostensive reality.
lives in a colorful boarding house worthy of a Chilean Tennessee Williams and
works in a soul deadening office. At
least he still has his health, but not for long. Barra has foretold his own death at the hands
of an assassin acting out of passion rather than for mercenary reasons. Is it a delusion, a foreshadowing of things
to come, both, or neither? It will be
dashed hard to say with certainty, as Ruiz and Barra play their games with the
it is tempting to conflate the auteur and his final protagonist. Though Ruiz began development on Lines of Wellington (also screening at
this year’s NYFF), it was his widow Valeria Sarmiento who ultimately helmed the
film after his passing. As a result,
when Barra foretells his own death, it takes on obvious additional
resonance. Still, it is impossible to
invest too much biographical significance in Street, given the eccentricity of Barra’s story. With its Séances, the ghosts of Beethoven,
and an excursion into the afterlife, it kind of has it all, but not necessarily
in logical order.
late great filmmaker leaves us with some amazing parting images, but viewers
might want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.
It is easy to get lost in Street,
especially since Ruiz’s leisurely pace does not exactly propel you along. Still, Sergio Hernández projects the morose
elegance perfectly befitting the unprepossessing Don Celso.
Sad yet playful, Street is like Inception for
the art-house crowd. While Ruiz over
emphasizes the childhood flashbacks at the expense of the noir elements, his
control of mood and atmosphere are always masterful. Recommended for Borges readers (but not what
you might call general audiences), Night
Across the Street screens tomorrow (10/7) at Alice Tully Hall as part of
the 2012 New York Film Festival.
Labels: Chilean Cinema, NYFF '12, Post-Modern game-playing, Raul Ruiz