Monday, October 3, 2011

MFF Film #20 - Mysteries of Lisbon

Portugal, 2010
Portuguese/French/English with English subtitles
Director: Raul Ruiz

Mysteries of Lisbon is a sweeping tale of love, deceit and the class system in 19th century Portugal.  Pedro, a young boy who thought he was an orphan, learns the truth about his parents from the priest who oversees the orphanage/school he attends, and as characters are introduced into this story, their backgrounds unravel into an interweaving tale that all comes back to Pedro, years later.

At a staggering four and a half hours, Mysteries of Lisbon attempts to be an epic, but the only epic thing about the film is its ridiculous length.  Mysteries of Lisbon is a story that could have easily been told in half the time, yet instead dragged from scene to scene with long shots of nothing, or lingering on scenes that should have ended long ago.  Despite its attempt at connecting the characters, the film runs off the rails several times, causing confusion and showcasing how irrelevant so many scenes were.  It got to the point where the words, "I have a story to tell you" began to cause laughter in the screening I attended, because if the people laughing were thinking what I was thinking, it was "Oh here we go again!"

Frankly, I couldn't stand this film.  However, I do have to give credit to director Raul Ruiz for creating a beautifully shot film, with exquisite cinematography and incredibly lit scenes that, if not actually natural light, aped the effect perfectly.  The beauty of Mysteries of Lisbon is the only thing that saved this film from getting the lowest rating I could give.  There were so many times when I just wanted to walk out, but it would have made me angrier to invest as much time as I had and not seen it all the way through to its long-awaited (and wholly unsatisfying) conclusion.  Unless you are under duress, as in strapped into a chair and forced to watch, I wouldn't recommend wasting your time with this film. 

MFF Ballot Rating: 2 out of 5

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