Filmmaker Raul Ruiz, died in 2011 after completing his best work The Mysteries of Lisbon. Such cannot be said for the Locarno 2017 hopeful A Wandering Soap Opera which has finally been completed by his widow and former editor Valeria Sarmiento.
This is not the first time a Ruiz film has been in the Swiss competition. His debut feature, Three Sad Tigers, won the Golden Leopard back in 1969. And Sarmiento did a great job with The Lines of Wellington, just after Ruiz died, but the hitherto unfinished documentary is an alienating affair, unless you’re familiar with Chilean vintage soap operas, and even then this is an acquired taste, although clearly very popular with those in the know, who created it uproariously during the Locarno Press screening.
A Wandering Soap Opera (Una telenovela errante) was shot in Ruiz’s native Chile during six days in 1990, but never edited or scored. The 16mm film explores Chile’s comedy backdrop during the Pinochet years (1973-1989) when Ruiz had been exiled to Europe returning after the president had fallen from grace but some of the humour is arcane and the rambling style and look feels rather dated but not in a good way, taking the form of seven chapters or ‘days’, each relevant to a day of shooting. Some of the humour is translatable in expressing the zeitgeist of the era: “If you behave badly in this life, you’ll become a Chilean in the next”. And the first skit is by far the funniest, for me it all went downhill comedy-wise afterwards. For those expecting something along the lines of Jodorowsky’s The Dance of Reality will be disappointed although the title does sound like it might be rather fun. This is obviously a film with a strong political undercurrent that also satirises male/female relations naturally erring on the misogynist take you might expect from a South American country, with florid language and melodrama serving the political narrative extremely well. MT
LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 2-12 AUGUST 2017