Mistérios de Lisboa
starring Adriano Luz, Maria João Bastos, Ricardo Pereira
screenplay by Carlos Saboga, based on the novel by Camilo Castelo Branco
directed by Raúl Ruiz
by Angelo Muredda "It would be long and tedious to explain," Adriano Luz's mysterious man of the cloth Father Dinis offers shortly before the intermission point of prolific Chilean director Raúl Ruiz's staggering Mysteries of Lisbon, the fleetest four-hour-plus spectacle you'll see this year. It's not the first time characters promise to explain things later (nor is it the last), their second favourite activity after explaining things now. As promised in an unattributed statement in the title credits, what follows is an amiably digressive "diary of suffering" stuffed with such deferrals and explanations. And a beautiful diary it is. Ruiz, who passed away earlier this year, is perhaps best-known stateside for his lyrical Proust adaptation Time Regained--a nice warm-up, in retrospect, for this even more sprawling and melancholy saga of childhood and loss, an adaptation of Portuguese author Camilo Castelo Branco's 1854 novel of the same name. The fruit of his labours this time is astonishing: an adaptation that's at once deeply reverent towards conventions of nineteenth-century fiction and attuned to their radical possibilities. Ruiz, in other words, finds nothing tedious about these stories, and sees in their mysterious doublings, crude disguises, generational secrets, and grand unmaskings an opportunity to dwell on the nature of storytelling, both its revelatory potential and its artifice.