Movies that are slightly off.
The Saragossa Manuscript
In the Napoleonic wars, an officer finds an old book that relates his grandfather's story, Alfons van Worden, captain in the Walloon guard. A man of honor and courage, he seeks the shortest route through the Sierra Morena. At an inn, the Venta Quemada, he sups with two Islamic princesses. They call him their cousin and seduce him; he wakes beside corpses under a gallows. He meets a hermit priest and a goatherd; each tells his story; he wakes again by the gallows. He's rescued from the Inquisition, meets a cabalist and hears more stories within stories, usually of love. He returns to Venta Quemada, the women await with astonishing news.
A funny, surreal, Mobius strip of a movie couched in multiple levels of narrative indirection, that folds in on itself; defiantly refusing to give a flying rat's ass if you can't keep up.
The closest modern equivalent of The Saragossa Manuscript will probably be the Vulcan Mind Meld of a dozen Charlie Kaufman clones doing peyote in the desert as Christopher Nolan snorts their liquified brains with a rolled up Dali painting.
PS: It's late, and I'm tired.
Yes, this is a sprawling historical epic with interlocking mini-narratives that branch out at every opportunity, yet it's the farthest thing from a hulking white elephant. Instead, it plays its own structural conceits and overgrown plotting for absurd comedy. (By the ninth or tenth time a character leaned back and said, "Well, let me tell you a story..." everyone in the theater knew to laugh.) It also overflows with physical gags, which pop in and out of the widescreen frame, as well as nonstop jokes at the expense of 18th century Spanish nobility. Every clergyman and aristocrat may talk a big moral game, but the second it benefits them they all pirouette right into hypocrisy. The comedy here is broad,…
Polish folklore, mystery, adventure and the supernatural await you when glimpsing through the pages of the Saragossa Manuscript. It is a film full of epic tales (way more than one) and narrational devices that could easily leave your head spinning but somehow miraculously work.
"The Saragossa Manuscript" is divided into two parts. The first beginning on the very first level of narration with two warring soldiers from opposite sides held up in a old tavern where they discovered the manuscript and read it intently. In doing so they immerse themselves into the story without ever going back and reaching our second level of narration. The second level is a story of a Captain of the Walloon guard who is trying…
what what what what
On a recent Charlie Brooker special, Adam Curtis pondered the possibility of a kind of 'asymmetrical politics', one where the power-brokers deliberately back completely contradictory causes in order to frustrate and confuse their opponents. His short film is a persuasive one, but I would be cautious about ascribing to malevolence what can be explained by insanity. One of the pioneers of backing completely mutually exclusive political causes was Jan Potocki, a Polish aristocrat and hot-air balloonist who ended his life convinced he was a werewolf. In desperation, he grabbed a strawberry-shaped silver doorknob from his house, whittled it down to a bullet and shot himself, becoming infamous as "the man who shot himself with a strawberry".
Given that capsule biography,…
Luis Buñuel, a cinema master who seldom watched movies more than once, was so fascinated by Wojciech Has' masterpiece titled Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie, that he saw it three times. Surrealism is a highly versatile film subgenre, and in this case, the Polish director decides to deliciously construct the most inventive ride of lunacy! Besides being the most renowned film by the director, a fact that clearly indicates that he obtained international recognition, Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie is a film that can be interpreted in several ways. No matter how seemingly retarded the interpretation is, that is the correct one. It was highly influenced by past satirical masterpieces of fantasy, but it also establishes a landmark in unconventional storytelling, unconditional…
A mind-blowing nested-narrative extravaganza, with stories within stories within stories that all tie together. The structure of this is so ingenious, and the reason the film is brilliant is because of its self-reflection: the movie is really about its own structure of layered narratives, which gets us to the really big ideas about perception and life itself. Has's ending to the film diverges from the ending of the book, rejecting concrete solutions to the puzzle and taking a stand for ambiguity and perhaps infinity.
This discursive genre-bending epic takes some time to get going, but the second half is fast-paced, funny, and weird in all the right ways.
A gem of Polish cinema, The Saragossa Manuscript uses its sense of adventure and imagination to create a unique epic. I appreciated it's mysterious side, as it added a nice Gothic element to the story. The film snagged me early and hard, but when it progressed to a secondary story it lost me a bit. I found the story inside of the story a bit bland. It took away too much attention from the main adventure.
Overall a nice surprise. A film that had a touch of several genres.
Two soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars stumble into an old abandoned inn as battle rages around them. There they discover a huge ancient book, filled with enigmatic pictures. It's the tale of a Captain of the Walloon Guard (a title he pompously brings up whenever possible) traveling across the mountains of Spain to Madrid. He gets lost in a rocky wasteland and stops at another old abandoned inn. Staying at the inn are two Tunisian princesses, who claim to have never seen a man before and beg the flabbergasted Captain to marry them both. The princesses force him to drink from a chalice made of a human skull; he awakes the next morning under a gallows where two convicted thieves…
While it is possible to be caught in allure if you found out that this film was particularly loved and embraced by Martin Scorsese, Jerry Garcia and Francis Ford Copolla; this film is only for the adventurous. It takes a lot more to enjoy this film to it's fullest that for some may not even reached more than a quarter of the movie. It's a convoluted tale of dazzling story within a story and it gets confusing as you try to analyze the rundown of every event that is happening to it's main character Alfonso. Watching the film is like getting lost in an elaborate labyrinth where the only probable exit that you can find is the entrance itself.
While the structure of The Saragossa Manuscript is one that I enjoyed in my favorite film of 2015, The Forbidden Room, here the confusion of where I'm at and what I'm watching never stokes my interest or funny bone. This quixotic tale of someone's grandfather during the Napoleonic wars has its moments, but it's also so stagey that I couldn't help but think of The Masque of the Red Death, another sometimes well regarded film that I didn't connect with.
I'm not even totally sure what to write about this film because I was never particularly sure of what it was trying to convey, plot or theme wise. Many of the images of death are pretty striking, and I thought…
The Napoleonic Wars serve as the backdrop for this film's Boschian hellscape and it's story is a nesting doll that you can`t help but dismantle.
A must see for fans of surreal and absurdist cinema.
At one point this became a story within a story within a story within a story within a story within a story. I counted. The closest cinematic rendering I've ever seen to capturing the spirt and unreality of both Borges and Dalí.
One of the most messed-up movies you've never heard of — a three-hour epic about ghosts, Moors, gypsies, the Spanish Inquisition, cabalists and caballeros. It's a trippy, mind-bending story that takes the viewer off into another world, but it helps to have seen it more than once, because the plot becomes a bit, uh, complicated in the second half.
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