New York Times explores work of prolific Chilean filmmaker

Raoul Ruiz talks about his inspiration, his cinematic references, and how a boy from Puerto Montt learned to love film.

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One of the New York Times’ most influential reviewers writes: “Discovering Raoul Ruiz is like stumbling into a secret room in an old, echoey mansion. You lean against a wall, your shoulder innocently trips a hidden mechanism and you find yourself whirled into a hidden chamber.”

Meet Raoul Ruiz, or Raúl as he’s known in his native country, the Chilean filmmaker who has dabbled in almost every genre and created a large and diverse body of critically-acclaimed work. In a recent review by U.S. publication the New York Times, famous film critic A.O. Scott interviews Ruiz at his Paris home.

Ruiz is yet another Chilean artist to attract international attention and applause recently; the New York Times review follows on the heels of an exposé by Spanish paper El Pais last month, which interviewed several top Chilean artists in contemporary music, literature and design.

Ruiz has lived in Paris, France since the 1970’s, but the review attributes his “peculiar cosmopolitanism” to his Chilean roots. Ruiz explained, “In Chile they used to say that the truly cultivated people were the ones without money, because they had to buy the cheapest books, which is to say the most interesting ones.”

One of Ruiz’ latest films, Mysteries of Lisbon, took place far away from Puerto Montt, the city where he was born. The film received widespread critical applause, winning the Golden Globe for best film in Portugal, the Critic’s Award for Best Film at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival, as well as a handful of other prizes and nominations at international events.

Overall, it has been a good year for Chilean film, with Pablo Larraín’s Post Mortem and  Matías Bize’s The Life of Fish both taking top prizes at the recent Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival in Hollywood.

While he was shooting Mysteries of Lisbon, Ruiz was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his liver. “It added a bit of drama, I guess,” he told A.O. Scott, “even though the shooting went very well.”

“Finally the doctors, tired of cutting my liver here and there, decided to cut the whole thing out and give me another one. And that may or may not work out,” Ruiz adds, “but for the moment it’s working. I was in the hospital for three months, and I came out wanting to make movies.”