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Raoul Ruiz, 1941-2011

Posted by Wesley Morris  August 19, 2011 11:49 AM

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Raul Ruiz.jpgThe Chilean director Raoul Ruiz has died. The two words you'd immediately use to describe him -- "enigmatic" and "prolific" -- are concise, but they also do his dozens of films no proper justice. His creative fecundity found a natural outlet in the cinema, where he felt free to stretch out and try whatever came to him, wherever. Ruiz was 70, essentially Parisian, but worked in a General Assembly's worth of countries and languages.

He began making films when he was in his 30s, which means he averaged about two movies a year, and, if a single film was a world unto itself, his movies taken together amount to a surrealist galaxy of psychic wormholes, intellectual pockets of time, and unsurpassed whimsy. He remains the only director who's tackled both Marcel Proust (1999's lively "Time Regained") and the adult-movie star and pedagogical eroticist Annie Sprinkle, however briefly, in 1990's deeply amusing, barely seen "The Golden Boat."

"Barely seen" is often associated with Ruiz. He worked faster than anyone could distribute or promote his films. But he was a man who seemed not to care about or court the market place. He was what a friend labeled a "jhouin jhouin" director, a filmmaker whose tastes are so catholic and whose sensibility is so hard to tame that he would never have a mass audience in any country. The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote a wonderful assessment of Ruiz for the paper's magazine that perfectly capture the joy of taking on his seemingly bottomless filmography.

He is a certain kind of film critic's filmmaker, an director of ideas, a artist who followed his bliss no matter where in time or any given genre it led. He was always inspired, and his inspiration will be deeply missed.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

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