The late Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz, a singular artist, died too soon at age 70 in 2011. His “Night Across the Street,” the last of more than 100 movies solely credited to him as director, is the kind of swan song you want from a master.
Elegiac, witty and deeply reflective, “Night Across the Street” strikes a mature and complex tone. Add to that a surreal playfulness whirling around a core of imminent if enigmatic loss — as well as an ever-shifting story that glides along like dream logic — and you have Ruiz’s unpredictable but rewarding farewell.
Loosely inspired by the stories of Chilean writer Hernán del Solar, “Night” finds Celso (Sergio Hernandez), an office clerk in his 60s on the verge of an unwanted retirement, drifting through memories and fantasies that meet, merge and ultimately become indistinguishable from reality.
An early scene places old Celso at a classroom desk next to much younger students in the Chilean port of Antofagasta, listening to a translation lesson by the novelist Jean Giono (Christian Vadim), author of “The Horseman on the Roof.” In subsequent scenes, Celso the boy (Santiago Figueroa) converses with pirate Long John Silver (Pedro Villagra), and takes Beethoven (Sergio Schmied) to a movie theater, where the composer becomes unsettled by an incongruous mashup of genre film images.
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We also discover how cultured, educated and opinionated little Celso is, which explains how he seems so self-possessed and literate much later in life. On the other hand, to “seem” anything in this film doesn’t make it real — not that it’s possible to know what “real” is in “Night.”
Ruiz approaches the theme of finality as a riddle-upon-riddle involving assassins, a boardinghouse that begins looking like something from “The Shining,” and an ambiguous deliverance. His approach is stark yet unforced, often graceful and adventurous to the end — an exit by a natural visionary.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com