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February 20, 2006

Days in the Country, 2004

days_country.gifContinuing his preoccupation with the interpenetration of time and memory, fiction and reality of Time Regained (that would be further explored in the subsequent film The Lost Domain), Days in the Country marks Raoul Ruiz's first Chilean feature film in thirty years. Perhaps inspired by the curious radio news broadcast of his own death, an aging gentleman, Don Federico (Mario Montilles) decides to retire to his country estate in order to put down on paper an unfinished novel that has consumed his thoughts for decades - the incompletion of which has been a long-running joke and recurring topic of conversation by the regulars at his habitual café. But returning to the solitude of the country proves to be an immersive, if not surreal, experience as characters from his unrealized novel begin to act out their roles in real life, and memories from his past - his devoted maid Paulita (Bélgica Castro), family friend and town physician Dr. Chandian (Francisco Reyes), and even an old neighbor who died from an accidental dog mauling - begin to resurface in the present (made all the more tortuous and fantastic by their physical resemblance to the regular cast of characters at the café). Ruiz's whimsical conflation of reality and imagination defies easy categorization or tidy resolution, but nevertheless, provides a witty, incisive, and ingeniously crafted meditation on mortality, regret, memory, and the iterative process of artistic creation.

Posted by acquarello on Feb 20, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, Film Comment Selects


I much prefered this one to the other Ruiz film you reviewed : The Lost Domain, both for it's richer, more ambivalent subject and its more personal form, surrealistic and innovative.
So did you notice this awkward counter-shot with the opposing characters at the same seat? (it's one of the shot similar to the picture you've put up there actually)
The oversized matches procession was very buñuelian, although Ruiz seems to prefer the "imaginist" to "surrealist" label.
Quite a complicate story though, it's hard to understand in one viewing...

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Feb 21, 2006 2:28 PM | Permalink

I felt that there was a lot of reworking of the same themes in both films, as though he had some unfinished ideas in Days in the Country that he wanted to develop further, and they ended up in The Lost Domain.

Good point about "imaginist"; I remember thinking at the time that the description was a little unusual, but he repeats it several times, so his intention in using the term was deliberate. This also reminds me of the ghost ship in The Lost Domain; Ruiz seems to be saying something about the orality of tales is what makes them come to life.

I missed the awkward shot; wasn't he talking to the doctor then? So they were both sitting in the same seat perspective-wise, but countershot so that they were supposed to be talking to each other? I remember Ruiz doing something like this in another film; I'm thinking it was Genealogies of a Crime. He seems to like inserting goofy, illogical shots like that.

Definitely a complicated story, indeed! I'm still not entirely sure what to make of Paulita, is she the memory of his mother? The whole conversation with the cousin warning him to not get too familiar with the domestic staff is also very Buñuelian, comedy of manners in approach. And the matchsticks scene was pretty hilarious! "We had to move your matchsticks, they were blocking traffic". :)

Posted by: acquarello on Feb 21, 2006 9:41 PM | Permalink

Yes it sounded like a manifesto to define a new movement as "imaginist", but I wasn't sure if he had used it before in his literature. I thought he was a good perpetuator of the surrealist spirit, maybe he has his own reasons to depart himself.

Yes the "wrong countershot" was in that café (what was it called? "café of the dead poets" or something), in one of the counversation between the 2 old guys (one was the writer older, right?). I don't remember when it was though.

Maybe "orality" is what frustrates me in Lost Domain, it's not as strong an asset in cinema language as for oral storytelling of folk tales.

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Feb 22, 2006 3:51 AM | Permalink

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