Famous Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz has died in Paris, aged 70

The acclaimed director, one of the greats of Chilean cinema, died early on Friday Aug. 19, 2011.

Raúl Ruiz
Riccardo De Luca

Renowned Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz died this morning, aged 70, after a long fight against liver cancer. He passed away in Paris, his home city since 1973.

The news was announced by Chile’s Culture Minister Luciano Cruz-Coke, who tweeted at 8:30 this morning: “Raúl Ruiz has passed away in Paris.”

The minister sent condolences to Ruiz’s wife, Chilean actress and director Valeria Sarmiento, and his family: “A hug to Valeria, to his family, and to all who admired his talent around the world. He will be buried in Chile, according to his wishes.”

Ruiz was one of Chile’s most famous and prestigious directors, winning numerous international awards and working with stars such as Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich and Emmanuelle Béart.

He was born in the southern Chilean city of Puerto Montt on July 25, 1941. He studied theater and filmmaking in Santiago, and by the age of 15 had written his first plays. He completed his first feature film, Tres Tristes Tigres (Three Sad Tigers), in 1968.

A vocal supporter of Salvador Allende’s socialist government, Ruiz was exiled to France after the 1973 military coup. There, he continued what was to become a long and prolific career in film, forging a prominent place in the world of French and international cinema.

Among his most famous works was Time Regained, a remake of Marcel Proust’s modernist classic À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. The film starred actors Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich and won critical applause at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.

Ruiz discovered he had cancer while working on his last film, the acclaimed Mysteries of Lisbon, for which he won Best Director at Spain’s San Sebastián Film Festival, the Critic’s Award for Best Film at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival and a handful of other major awards.

In a poignant interview with New York Times critic A.O. Scott on July 29, 2011, Ruiz discussed his illness and its effect on the film: “It added a bit of drama, I guess,” he said, “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, but for the moment it’s working. I was in the hospital for three months, and I came out wanting to make movies.”

Ruiz’s funeral will be held in Paris next Tuesday, August 23 at 10:30 am in Saint-Paul Church, 99 Rue Saint-Antoine, according to Portuguese film website Clap Filmes. The great director’s body will then return to Chile for burial, according to his wishes.