Memorias chilenas

 

Este es un artículo que escribí sobre Raúl Ruíz para MUBI. Está en inglés y tiene que ver con algunos recuerdos de mi llegada a Nueva York, entre otras cosas.

 

I had recently arrived in New York in the late 90s and was completely lost, overwhelmed by the need to adapt, to no longer be just chileno, and to understand this multicultural, all-consuming city, when I found myself with a worn-out VHS tape of On Top of the Whale, an alien film that only left me feeling more displaced but crying with laughter for five minutes straight. Amidst everything else in this enigmatic movie, there’s one of the most remarkable, humiliating, and endless tirades—or chuchadas, as they say in Chile—in the history of cinema. In the scene, a guy taunts another for some minutes with insults that make up a greatest hits of all the harshest, cruelest, and most hilarious expletives in the Chilean vocabulary. 5000 miles from home, I could understand the barbed humor of the Cono Sur much better now, and I discovered one of the first codes of Ruiz while at it: Chilean-ness.

It would be in Chile, some years later, seeing the director at work, that I would get another code to navigate Ruizian nebula. At the invitation of my friend Jorge Aguilar—Ruiz’s devoted director of photography—I visited the set of Litoral, cuentos del mar (2008) in Santiago, and in the little time I shared with Ruiz was quickly impressed by his ability to broker so many ideas at once. It was a whirlwind experience that in a couple of minutes took us through his memories of his time in New York filming The Golden Boat (both of us knew his New York producer), to what drew him to Bela Tarr and José Luis Torres Leiva, and to his familiarity with some astonishing documentaries I’d never heard of—all this while he prepared a shot and calmly sipped a glass of wine that he referred to as “el cañonazo del mediodía,” “the midday bomb.” Soon, behind the camera, he invited a poet friend to his side to talk of Chilote myths, as one story shifted abruptly to a discussion on ancient European texts and ended with Ruiz humming to himself a Medieval song. It was an overwhelming sensation that I suppose everyone who knew him or has seen has films has experienced: the sense of being on a convoluted adventure, at once uncertain and perfectly lucid.