Across the Third Dimension

Above — from CITY OF PIRATES — why Raul Ruiz must and should make a 3D movie.

My sole objection to 3D at the moment is that it’s the domain of big blockbusters (including some very good ones, like TOY STORY 3 and CORALINE), predominantly kids’ films, with a few cheapo horrors thrown in. And of course I’ll have no truck with any movie retrofitted for the process. When a smaller film does get made, like Joe Dante’s THE HOLE, the scarcity of screens that can accommodate the third dimension results in a long wait for the movie to appear.

“A waste of a perfectly good dimension” is Roger Ebert’s witty dismissal of the medium, but that doesn’t really make sense: since the fifties, the dimension of depth has been essentially lying fallow, save for the efforts of sculptors and architects. Admit it: your life has become flat, two-dimensional, like a western set in an old movie. Turn you around and we’d see the clapboard backing and wooden props holding you up. Like the denizens of Flatland, you walk only in straight lines, and when you meet somebody coming the other way, you try to climb over them. This is the cause of all the turmoil in the world.


Ruiz, as a native of Chile who’s had to spend decades abroad due to the political ructions in his homeland, is all too aware of this, which must surely be why he’s tried to force a third dimension into his non-stereoscopic productions, poking the audience in the eye by composition alone. Wake up and smell the third dimension! There’s space there for EVERYBODY!


25 Responses to “Across the Third Dimension”

  1. Another film-maker who should make 3D is Mohsen Makhmalbaf, his ”The Cyclist” has some of the most delirious and seizure-inducing compositions in film history. Very reminiscent of the middle still with that glass baroquely foregrounded. Ruiz in 3D needless to say would be a mouthwatering prospect.

    So far the only serious auteur in line for 3D is Martin Scorsese, his next film ”Hugo Cabret” is set in 30s Paris and is about a young boy’s interactions with a crusty old toy-seller in a train station who is none other than Georges Melies(Ben Kingsley) towards the end of his life. And Wim Wenders is doing a documentary on Pina Bausch in 3D.

    I personally prefer the good and old second dimension. I saw Leos Carax’s POLA X yesterday and that gave me a greater sensation of 4th Wall shattering than anything James Cameron ever did in any dimension. And I saw that on my computer monitor.

    Coppola says that neo-3D isn’t any different from 3D in the past since you still need glasses, he says that a real change can only come once they manage to make it glassless. For my part I hope that this is as far as it goes and 3D remains the exalted novelty that it always was.

  2. I’m sure you could convince Raiul to make a 3-D movie if you could show him how to do it cheaply enough. He is OBSESSED with low-to-no-budget filmmaking as an esthetic principle. He is also obsessed with speed, and turning out as many films as he possibly can. I lost count a few years back.

    There are many clues of 3-D interest in his oeuvre already, especially Memoires des Apparances his rendition of Calderon’s “Life is a Dream as an episode of Flash Gordon.

    City of Pirates is indeed wonderful, and so is its star Melville Poupaud — another Ruiz invention. Now all growed up he has become a major Fench leading man (especially enchanting in Zoe Cassavetes’ Broken English where he wins the heart of She Who is Essential to Cinema — Parker Posey.)

    “Political runctions in his homeland” scarcely begins to describe Ruiz’s probelm. Pinchocet wanted him dead in no uncertain terms.

    In recent years he has returned to Chile. But I think of him as French filmmaker, most specifically for his astonishing cinematic rendering of Proust.

    He is also a superb chef, and can drink ANYONE under the table.

  3. That was a jarring image to see this morning, since I fell asleep watching City of Pirates just last night. I didn’t make it far past your final screen shot (was she insulting some army officials who came to talk about her son?). Definitely a movie that requires full alertness, so I’ll try again sometime soon.

    Still waiting for Joe Dante’s THE HOLE here in the southeast USA. Haven’t heard a word about it except online.

    Mmmm, Pedro Costa 3-D.

  4. We’re afraid to say there’s no filming of any sort for el maestro RR just now because of doctors’ orders. He was on the brink a few months ago, refusing to undergo surgery for liver cancer until he had his epic MYSTERIES OF LISBON in the bag.

  5. david wingrove Says:

    Whether or not Ruiz ever chooses to work in 3D, most of his films already seem to be in four dimensions if not five. I’ll never forget seeing THREE CROWNS OF A SAILOR one night in a tiny cinema in lower Manhattan, then walking home around 2 AM. The whole city seemed to have turned into a psychedelic Ruiz landscape. Not that much of a stretch, really, when you think about it.

    I’m even a huge fan of his recent KLIMT biopic (which got slated in most quarters) and MYSTERIES OF LISBON looks truly sumptuous. Let’s just hope Ruiz gets over his illness and makes more weird and wonderful films!

  6. Being adapted from a novel by Camilo Castelo Branco , Mysteries fo Lisbon fidns Ruiz on Maoel de Oliviera territoy. One of Oliveira’s masterpeices Francesca is a lavish adaptation of Branco’s “Fanny Owen.” Ruiz told me that DeOliveira was insne in that he cast his cienmatographer as that film’s male lead – even though he had never acted before and had no desire for an acting career.

    Really sad to here that this is it for Ruiz. De Oliveira — at 101 — continues on as ever.

  7. I love, LOVE Ruiz (first exposure to him, before I’d seen any of his films, was an interview where he expounded at length on his fascination for the works of Edgar Ulmer – I knew it was going to be a beautiful relationship). Then I ended up drinking in Soho (the London Soho) for a couple of very entertaining nights with a goodlooking French guy called Melvil. Since I knew he’d been in a couple of Ozon movies, and I don’t like Ozon, I purposely steered conversation away from cinema and we instead had some very entertaining, drunken times. Imagine my consternation, months later, when I discovered that he’d practically been brought up by Ruiz. All the stuff I could have found out! All the anecdotes unspun! Ah, well, we had a fine time anyway.

  8. RR may well live to shoot another day. He hopes to make a smaller film in Portugal next year but the doctors probably won’t allow him to before 2012. I guess it’s still touch-and-go at the minute (he also broke his leg). In the meantime, he plans to concentrate on writing and (if he’s able to travel) maybe some theatre in Chile. And MYSTERIES OF LISBON is about to start doing the international fest circuit (incl. NYFF).

  9. When Scorsese was in Edinburgh at the time of Color of Money (Filmhouse legend has him asking where he could get some coke. “There’s a machine in the lobby,” he was told, to his momentary surprise) he talked about Ulmer setting the record for most set-ups in a day (Scorsese shot the whole pool table fight in Mean Streets in a half day) and Ruiz breaking it. “And one of those was from inside somebody’s mouth! The best inside-a-mouth shot I ever saw was in Jaws R in 3D: a shark eating its victim, in 3D, filmed from inside the shark’s mouth. A new low in taste!”

    Sorry to hear about Ruiz, hope he bounces back! He’s certainly gifted us with an incredble number of films, many of them unavailable at present, but I hope I’m not being greedy when I say I WANT MORE. Get well soon, RR.

  10. In one interview, Poupaud claimed that RR succeeded in breaking his own record on THREE LIVES AND ONLY ONE DEATH.

  11. Christopher Says:

    I can’t believe we’re all going to 3 fucking D movies again!!

  12. Great, isn’t it?

  13. Christopher Says:

    well I’m not suprised I guess..We’ve been reverting back to the stone age little by little..I long for flesh and blood,talented actors,screenwriters,directors..and a public that isn’t brainwashed by Barnum and Bailey.

  14. Just back from a very encouraging screening of student films, our postgraduates from Edinburgh College of Art. The talent exists, I insist, it’s just the industry that stops it from reaching audience’s eyes.

    As an animation fan I don’t automatically require flesh and blood, but your other prerequisites could certainly do with prioritizing by the studios and other funding bodies.

  15. Looking at these screen grabs particularly something actually very obvious but, as far as I know hitherto unremarked upon, has suddenly struck me. Seeing stuff in 2 dimensions IS ITSELF novelty. That’s why they called themselves Moving Pictures.

  16. Ruiz Made Point de Fuite on a bet that he could beat Ulmer’s recodn for the numebr of set-ups he could accomplish in a single day.

    Sorry you didn’t chat up Melville Poupaud more, Paul.

    I agree that Ozon can be quite annoying. But he’s incredibly charming and hot — and the charming and hot get away with murder.

  17. Dante’s HOLE recently screened here at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It’s a B-picture in the truest sense of the term and not just spirit/sensibilities, but Dante, as ever, works that in his favour and the final product is a raffishly diverting, heart-in-right-place kiddie/tweens adventure. Lesser Dante, but still trumps the lion’s share of what passes for family entertainment these days. The 3-D is used classily, with a few cheeky concessions to gimmicky in-your-face!-edness, and genuinely – albeit gently – enhances the viewing experience. Ace possessed jester doll (a visual hangover from SMALL SOLDIERS?) to boot.

  18. Sounds good. “It’s got a small, scary thing in it? Get me Joe Dante!”

    Ozon seems to offer such a variety of styles that I can’t quite imagine taking an overall dislike to him. Maybe I’ve yet to see one that I loved, but he usually seems at least interesting, and I’m sure it will happen. The new one’s meant to be VG.

    Simon, you’re right! It reminds me of Gorky’s “Kingdom of Shadows” piece where he remarks on all the odd (to him) properties of the cinema, such as the lack of sound and colour, and the way people keep disappearing outside of frame. But I can’t recall if he mentions the flatness.

  19. david wingrove Says:

    My partner once met Ozon at an Institut Francais shindig. His verdict…”Well, you know how cute he is in photos? In person he looks even better.”

    No wonder the boy has producers & funding bodies (not to mention aging divas) curled around his little finger!

  20. Damn, it’s just not fair what I have to compete with for funding.

  21. […] David Cairns identifies just the director to validate 3D: Raul Ruiz. (Read through the comments for some saddening news about Ruiz’s health.) […]

  22. In a new interview with “Positif”, RR says he wants to see what Scorsese does with 3D.

  23. Me too!

    I hear Mr Ruiz has been making an excellent recovery, best wishes for a speedy return to film-making. He’s been indefatigable until now!

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