Raúl Ruiz (director)

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Raúl Ruiz
Raúl Ernesto Ruiz Pino

(1941-07-25)25 July 1941
Died19 August 2011(2011-08-19) (aged 70)
Paris, France
Other namesRaoul Ruiz
Alma materUniversity of Chile
OccupationFilm director
Years active1963–2011
StyleDrama, comedy, experimental film
(m. 1969)

Raúl Ernesto Ruiz Pino (French: Raoul Ruiz; 25 July 1941 – 19 August 2011) was an experimental Chilean filmmaker, writer and teacher whose work is best known in France. He directed more than 100 films.[1]


The son of a ship's captain and a schoolteacher in southern Chile, Raúl Ruiz abandoned his university studies in theology and law to write 100 plays with the support of a Rockefeller Foundation grant. He went on to learn his craft working in Chilean and Mexican television[2] and studying at film school in Argentina (1964). Back in Chile, he made his feature debut Three Sad Tigers (1968), sharing the Golden Leopard at the 1969 Locarno Film Festival. According to Ruiz in a 1991 interview, Three Sad Tigers "is a film without a story, it is the reverse of a story. Somebody kills somebody. All the elements of a story are there but they are used like a landscape, and the landscape is used like story."[3] He was something of an outsider among the politically oriented Chilean filmmakers of his generation such as Miguel Littín and Patricio Guzmán, his work being far more ironic, surrealistic and experimental. In 1973, shortly after the military coup d'état led by Augusto Pinochet, Ruiz and his wife (fellow director Valeria Sarmiento) fled Chile and settled in Paris, France.[4]

Ruiz soon developed a reputation among European critics and cinephiles as an avant-garde film magician, writing and directing a remarkable number of amusing, eccentric, complex, and highly literary low-to-no-budget films in the 1970s and 1980s (often for France's Institut national de l'audiovisuel and then for Portuguese producer Paulo Branco). The best known of these often oneiric, fabulist films are: Colloque de chiens (1977), a short which marked the start of Ruiz's long-term working relationship with Chilean composer Jorge Arriagada; The Suspended Vocation (1978); The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1978); On Top of the Whale (1982); Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983); City of Pirates (1983); Manoel's Destinies (1985); Treasure Island (1985) and Life is a Dream (1986).[5] A special issue of Cahiers du cinéma was devoted to Ruiz in March 1983.[6]

In the 1990s, Ruiz began working with larger budgets and "name" stars like John Hurt in Dark at Noon (1992) and Marcello Mastroianni in Three Lives and Only One Death (1996). The following year, he made Genealogies of a Crime starring Catherine Deneuve, winning the Silver Bear at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival.[7] A second major French actress, Isabelle Huppert, worked with Ruiz on Comedy of Innocence (2000), which was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The American John Malkovich acted in the star-studded Marcel Proust adaptation Time Regained (1999) and the somewhat less successful Savage Souls (2001) and Klimt (2006). That Day (2003) was the fourth and last Ruiz film to be shown in the main competition of the Cannes Film festival.[8] He also made forays into the English-language mainstream with the thrillers Shattered Image (1998) and A Closed Book (2010). In the final decade of his life, Ruiz wrote and directed several low-budget productions in his native Chile, but his final international success was the Franco-Portuguese epic Mysteries of Lisbon (2010).

Ruiz claimed that he was "always trying to make this connection between different ways of producing: film, theater, installations, and videos" – he hoped his "films would have to be seen many times, like objects in the house, like a painting. They have to have a minimum of complexity."[3] Over the years, he taught his own particular brand of film theory, which he explained in his two books Poetics of Cinema 1: Miscellanies (1995) and Poetics of Cinema 2 (2007), and actively engaged in film and video projects with university and film school students in many countries, including the US, France, Colombia, Chile, Italy and Scotland.[9]

Ruiz died in August 2011 as a result of complications from a lung infection, having successfully undergone a liver transplant in early 2010 after being diagnosed with a life-threatening tumour. The Presidents of France and Chile both praised him.[10][11] The Church of Saint George-Paul in Paris held a memorial service which was attended by many notable friends, including Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, Melvil Poupaud, Paulo Branco, Arielle Dombasle, Michel Piccoli and Jorge Edwards. Ruiz's body was then returned to Chile to be buried as specified in his will and a National Day of Mourning was declared in Chile.[12]


Ruiz's final completed feature Night Across the Street (2012) was selected to be screened posthumously in the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.[13][14] His widow Valeria Sarmiento, who was also his collaborator and frequent editor for several decades, completed Lines of Wellington (2012), the Napoleonic epic that Ruiz was preparing when he died[15][16] and the film was in competition for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival[17] and as a Zabaltegi Special at the 2012 San Sebastián International Film Festival.[18] Both films were also shown at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival[19] and the 2012 New York Film Festival.[20]

On 25 July 2014, Serpentine Galleries in London launched "Pirates and Disappearances: A Homage to Raúl Ruiz", a weekend of Ruiz-related talks and screenings.[21] The most complete retrospective yet of Ruiz's work took place at the Cinémathèque française in Paris between 30 March and 30 May 2016.[22] Another retrospective commemoration was held at Lincoln Center in New York City which ran during the week ending 22 December 2016[23] with Part 2 in February 2018.[24] The next major retrospective took place at the Viennale from October 2023 to January 2024[25] and will be followed by another at the Cinemateca Portuguesa which begins in February 2024.[26]

The feature film The Wandering Soap Opera, which Ruiz had shot in Chile in 1990 but left unfinished, was completed by Sarmiento and premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in August 2017. Ruiz's feature debut The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror, filmed in 1967 but shelved following budgetary problems, was restored by Sarmiento for a February 2020 premiere in the 70th Berlin International Film Festival.[27]

Image from Realismo socialista

A third Ruiz film, Socialist Realism as One of the Fine Arts, has been restored and completed by Sarmiento for its official premiere in 2023. Ruiz was not able to give the film a final edit as a result of the Chilean coup in 1973 and it was presumed lost for many years. A fifty-minute rough cut was shown at the Valdivia International Film Festival in 2008, but four-and-a-half hours of footage was recovered from the archives of Duke University in 2016.[28]




  • Raoul Ruiz; Benoît Peeters; Patrick Deubelbeiss (1989). Le Transpatagonien (in French). Casterman. ISBN 2203380144. Translated into Spanish as: Raúl Ruiz; Benoît Peeters (1995). El Transpatagónico. Grijalbo Mondadori. ISBN 956-262-097-2. Translated from the French by Cristóbal Santa Cruz.
  • Raoul Ruiz (1990). Le livre des disparitions (in French). Dis Voir. ISBN 2906571180. Translated into English as: Raul Ruiz (2005). The Book of Disappearance & The Book of the Tractions. Dis Voir. ISBN 2914563191.
  • Raoul Ruiz (1992). Le Convive de pierre (in French). Actes Sud. ISBN 2869431643.
  • Raoul Ruiz (1995). Poétique du cinéma (in French). Dis Voir. ISBN 2-906571-37-7. Translated into English as: Raul Ruiz (1995). Poetics of Cinema 1: Miscellanies. Dis Voir. ISBN 2-906571-38-5. Translated from the French by Brian Holmes. Translated into Spanish as: Raúl Ruiz (2000). Poética del cine. Editorial Sudamericana. ISBN 956-262-097-2. Translated from the French by Waldo Rojas.
  • Raoul Ruiz (1999). Entretiens (in French). Editions Hoebeke. ISBN 2842300823.
  • Raoul Ruiz (2006). Poétique du cinéma 2 (in French). Dis Voir. ISBN 978-2-914563-27-7. Translated into English as: Raul Ruiz (2007). Poetics of Cinema 2. Dis Voir. ISBN 978-2-914563-25-3. Translated from the Spanish by Carlos Eduardo Morreo.
  • Raoul Ruiz (2008). A la poursuite de l'île au trésor (in French). Dis Voir. ISBN 978-2-914563-39-0. Translated into English as: Raul Ruiz (2008). In Pursuit of Treasure Island. Dis Voir. ISBN 978-2-914563-41-3. Translated from the French by Paul Buck and Catherine Petit.
  • Raúl Ruiz (2012). L'esprit de l'escalier (in French). Fayard. ISBN 9782213644363. Translated into English as: Raul Ruiz (2012). The Wit of the Staircase. Dis Voir. ISBN 978-2914563727. Translated from the French by Paul Buck and Catherine Petit.
  • Raúl Ruiz (2013). Poéticas del cine (in Spanish). Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales (UDP). ISBN 978-956-314-218-1. Sections translated from the French by Alan Pauls.
  • Raúl Ruiz (2017). Diario. Notas, recuerdos y secuencias de cosas vistas (in Spanish). Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales (UDP). Selection, editing and prologue by Bruno Cuneo.
  • Raúl Ruiz (2019). Duelos y quebrantos (in Spanish). Mundana Ediciones. Edited by Bruno Cuneo.
  • Raúl Ruiz (2021). A Nine-Year-Old Aviator. Dis Voir. ISBN 978-2-914563-99-4. Translated from the Spanish by Paul Buck and Catherine Petit. Illustrations by Camila Mora Scheihing.
  • Raúl Ruiz (2023). Edipo hiperbóreo. Una antología de fábulas sobre el exilio y la tiranía (in Spanish). Overol. ISBN 9789566137269. Translated into Spanish and edited by Elisa Chaim.


  1. ^ "R.I.P. Raoul Ruiz, prolific and enigmatic director". avclub.com. 19 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  2. ^ "The Raul thing". The Guardian. London. 7 January 2000. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  3. ^ a b Klonarides, Carole Ann http://bombsite.com/issues/34/articles/1391, BOMB Magazine Winter, 1991. Retrieved on 3 June 2013.
  4. ^ Grimes, William (19 August 2011). "Raúl Ruiz, Prolific Director of Cryptic Films, Dies at 70". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  5. ^ Bergan, Ronald (19 August 2011). "Chilean-born film-maker who became the darling of the French avant garde". The Guardian. London. The Guardian. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Cover of the 'Ruiz special'".[permanent dead link] Cahiers du cinéma, March 1983. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  8. ^ "Raoul Ruiz biography". 28 May 2023. Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  9. ^ "A new face for film studies" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 November 2011. University of Aberdeen magazine, 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Raoul Ruiz, French-Chilean Filmmaker, Dead at 70". Huffington Post. 19 August 2011. Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  11. ^ "Piñera: Cine de Raúl Ruiz nos abrió el mundo". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. La Nación. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  12. ^ "Beloved Chilean Filmmaker Raúl Ruiz Dies at 70". elrepuertero.cl. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  13. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (24 April 2012). "Cannes 2012: Michel Gondry's 'The We & The I' to Open Director's Fortnight". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  14. ^ "2012 Selection". quinzaine-realisateurs.com. Directors' Fortnight. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  15. ^ "Passings: Raul Ruiz". Los Angeles Times. 20 August 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  16. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey (20 August 2012). "Raul Ruiz and the ghosts on the battlefield". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  17. ^ "Venezia 69". labiennale.org. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  18. ^ "Zabaltegi Specials". sansebastianfestival.com. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  19. ^ "Programmer's Note". tiff.net. Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  20. ^ "2012 New York Film Festival Line-Up Announced". collider.com. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  21. ^ "Park Nights 2014". serpentinegalleries.org. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  22. ^ "Raoul Ruiz". cinematheque.fr. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  23. ^ Richard Brody (2017). "The Memory Card". The New Yorker, 19 December 2016, p. 30.
  24. ^ "Life Is a Dream: The Films of Raúl Ruiz (Part 2) Begins February 9". filmlinc.org. 12 January 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  25. ^ "Retrospective: Raúl Ruiz". viennale.at. Retrieved 15 October 2023.
  26. ^ "RFINALMENTE RUIZ! RETROSPETIVA QUASE INTEGRAL A PARTIR DE FEVEREIRO". cinemateca.pt. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  27. ^ "Chilean Master Raul Ruiz's Unfinished First Film Gets Restored and Scheduled for Premiere". The Hollywood Reporter. 3 April 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  28. ^ "La Unidad Popular según Raúl Ruiz". La Tercera. 9 May 2020. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  29. ^ Cinema from Chiloé to Paris, "Raul Ruiz".
  30. ^ "Diversos premios y una prolífica carrera marcaron la trayectoria de Raúl Ruiz" [Diverse Awards and a Prolific Career Marked the Path of Raúl Ruiz]. La Tercera (in Spanish). 19 August 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  31. ^ "28th Moscow International Film Festival (2006)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  32. ^ "'Mysteries of Lisbon' nabs Louis Delluc prize". Variety. Variety. Retrieved 14 May 2012.

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