Raúl Ernesto Ruiz Pino
25 July 1941
|Died||19 August 2011 (aged 70)|
|Other names||Raoul Ruiz|
The son of a ship's captain and a schoolteacher in southern Chile, Raúl Ruiz abandoned his university studies in theology and law to write 100 plays with the support of a Rockefeller Foundation grant. He went on to learn his craft working in Chilean and Mexican television and studying at film school in Argentina (1964). Back in Chile, he made his feature debut Three Sad Tigers (1968), sharing the Golden Leopard at the 1969 Locarno Film Festival. According to Ruiz in a 1991 interview, Three Sad Tigers "is a film without a story, it is the reverse of a story. Somebody kills somebody. All the elements of a story are there but they are used like a landscape, and the landscape is used like story." He was something of an outsider among the politically oriented Chilean filmmakers of his generation such as Miguel Littín and Patricio Guzmán, his work being far more ironic, surrealistic and experimental. In 1973, shortly after the military coup d'état led by Augusto Pinochet, Ruiz and his wife (fellow director Valeria Sarmiento) fled Chile and settled in Paris, France.
Ruiz soon developed a reputation among European critics and cinephiles as an avant-garde filmmaker, writing and directing a large number of eccentric, literary and complex low-to-no-budget films in the 1970s and 1980s (often for France's Institut national de l'audiovisuel and then for Portuguese producer Paulo Branco). These often oneiric, fabulist films included Colloque de chiens (1977), a short which marked the start of Ruiz's long-term working relationship with Chilean composer Jorge Arriagada; The Suspended Vocation (1978); The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1979); On Top of the Whale (1982); Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983); City of Pirates (1983); Manoel's Destinies (1985); Treasure Island (1985) and Life is a Dream (1986). A special issue of Cahiers du cinéma was devoted to Ruiz in March 1983.
In the 1990s, Ruiz began working with larger budgets and "name" stars like John Hurt in Dark at Noon (1992) and Marcello Mastroianni in Three Lives and Only One Death (1996). The following year, he made Genealogies of a Crime starring Catherine Deneuve, winning the Silver Bear at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival. A second major French actress, Isabelle Huppert, worked with Ruiz on Comedy of Innocence (2000), which was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. John Malkovich acted in the star-studded Marcel Proust adaptation Time Regained (1999), Savage Souls (2001) and Klimt (2006). That Day (2003) was the fourth and last Ruiz film to be shown in the main competition of the Cannes Film festival. He also made forays into the English-language mainstream with the thrillers Shattered Image (1998) and A Closed Book (2010). In the final decade of his life, Ruiz wrote and directed several low-budget productions in his native Chile, but his final international success was the Franco-Portuguese epic Mysteries of Lisbon (2010).
Ruiz claimed that he was "always trying to make this connection between different ways of producing: film, theater, installations, and videos" - he hoped his "films would have to be seen many times, like objects in the house, like a painting. They have to have a minimum of complexity." Over the years, he taught his own particular brand of film theory, which he explained in his two books Poetics of Cinema 1: Miscellanies (1995) and Poetics of Cinema 2 (2007), and actively engaged in film and video projects with university and film school students in many countries, including the US, France, Colombia, Chile, Italy and Scotland.
Ruiz died in August 2011 as a result of complications from a lung infection, having undergone a liver transplant in early 2010 after being diagnosed with a life-threatening tumour. The Presidents of France and Chile both praised him. The Church of Saint George-Paul in Paris held a memorial service which was attended by many notable friends, including Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, Melvil Poupaud, Paulo Branco, Arielle Dombasle, Michel Piccoli and Jorge Edwards. Ruiz's body was then returned to Chile to be buried as specified in his will and a National Day of Mourning was declared in Chile.
Ruiz's final completed feature Night Across the Street (2012) was selected to be screened posthumously in the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. His widow Valeria Sarmiento, who was also his collaborator and frequent editor for several decades, completed Lines of Wellington (2012), the Napoleonic epic that Ruiz was preparing when he died and the film was in competition for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival and as a Zabaltegi Special at the 2012 San Sebastián International Film Festival. Both films were also shown at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2012 New York Film Festival.
On 25 July 2014, Serpentine Galleries in London launched "Pirates and Disappearances: A Homage to Raúl Ruiz", a weekend of Ruiz-related talks and screenings. The most complete retrospective yet of Ruiz's work took place at the Cinémathèque française in Paris between 30 March and 30 May 2016. Another retrospective commemoration was held at Lincoln Center in New York City which ran during the week ending 22 December 2016 with Part 2 in February 2018.
The feature film The Wandering Soap Opera, which Ruiz had shot in Chile in 1990 but left unfinished, was completed by Sarmiento and premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in August 2017. Ruiz's feature debut The Tango of the Widower, filmed in 1967 but shelved following budgetary problems, is being restored by Sarmiento for a 2020 premiere.