Thursday, November 15, 2012

Three Crowns of the Sailor

Raul Ruiz is a filmmaker of exile, but he’s clearly found his homeland in the delirious fantasy world of Three Crowns of the Sailor. These are his compatriots: a 90-year-old man aging in reverse as long as he doesn’t eat, a burlesque dancer who isn’t fully naked until she removes her sex, sailors who sweat worms (which become butterflies, which poison the seagulls, which the sailors then eat). All are bit players in the titular sailor’s tale of misadventure aboard a boat manned by the dead, as recounted to a murderous student. Funny and morbid, Ruiz’s film is driven by death, even as his camera embraces life, cartwheeling wildly through each digression. One minute it’s underfoot, the next it’s upside down as the sailor enters a hallway where gravity momentarily reverses. Perhaps the film adds up to little more than a series of surrealist bagatelles, but that need not be a liability. Watching his ship sink—don’t worry, it’ll be back later—the sailor sums up the entire cockeyed plot when he remarks that life is just an absurd wound. But does he mean a needless injury like shooting yourself in the foot? Or is he referencing a pain so ridiculous it ceases to be pain at all, and transforms into something beautiful? Cut a man and liquid clocks dribble out from the veins instead of blood. Let it bleed, Raul, let it bleed.

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