THE NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET (LA NOCHE DE ENFRENTE) (Raúl Ruiz, 2012)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center: Francesca Beale Theater, Howard Gilman Theater
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Sunday, February 11, 8:00; Sunday, February 18, 6:15
Series runs February 9-18
In December 2016, the Film Society of Lincoln Center held the first of its two-part tribute to Chilean-French auteur Raúl Ruiz, a prolific writer and director who passed away in 2011 at the age of seventy. “Life Is a Dream: The Films of Raúl Ruiz” is now back for the second half of the celebration, from February 9 to 18, consisting of fourteen more works by Ruiz, highlighted by a week-long run of a new digital restoration of his 1999 magnum opus, Time Regained, a dramatization of Marcel Proust on his deathbed, thinking back on his own life as well as the fictional life of his characters. The festival also includes Ruiz’s last film, Night Across the Street, which proves to be a fitting finale for Ruiz, who left behind a legacy of more than one hundred movies and one hundred plays. An adaptation — or as Ruiz explained it, “adoption” — from a pair of short stories by Imaginist writer Hernán del Solar, Night Across the Street follows the odd meanderings of Don Celso (Sergio Hernandez), an old man about to retire from his office job. Past, present, and future, the real and the imagined, merge in abstract, surreal ways as Don Celso goes back to his childhood, where he (played as a boy by Santiago Figueroa) takes his idol, Beethoven (Sergio Schmied), to the movies and gets life lessons from Long John Silver (Pedro Villagra). As an adult, he hangs out with the fictional version of French teacher and writer Jean Giono (Christian Vadim), whose real self and family appear to be elsewhere. And he visits a haunted hotel run by Nigilda (Valentina Vargad) where he believes he will meet his doom.
Memories and hallucinations mingle in front of obviously fake backgrounds, strange, unexplained characters appear then disappear, and Don Celso (and Ruiz, of course) has fun with such words as “Antofagasta” and “rhododendron” in a film that Ruiz created to be shown only after his death. (He made the film after being diagnosed with liver cancer, which he survived by getting a transplant, only to die shortly thereafter of a lung infection.) And at the center of it all is one of Ruiz’s favorite themes, time — Don Celso is regularly interrupted by an annoying alarm clock that signals him to take unidentified medication, keeping him alive even as the end beckons. Screening at Lincoln Center on February 11 and 18 (the first show will be introduced by actress Chamila Rodríguez), Night Across the Street is an elegiac swan song by a master filmmaker. The series continues with such other Ruiz films as Klimt, starring John Malkovich as the Austrian artist, the American thriller Shattered Image, with Anne Parillaud and William Baldwin, the deeply personal improvised Dutch film On Top of the Whale, and the haunting Comedy of Innocence, with Isabelle Huppert and Jeanne Balibar.