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CITY OF PIRATES(LA VILLE DES PIRATES) (director/writer: Raoul Ruiz; cinematographer: Acácio de Almeida; editor: Valeria Sarmiento; music: Jorge Arriagada; cast: M elvil Poupaud (Malo, l’enfant), Hugues Quester (Toby), Anne Alvaro (Isidore), Andre Engel (The fisherman), Duarte de Almeida (The father), Clarisse Dole (The mother), Andre Gomes (The soldier); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anne-Marie La Joisin; Clap Film-PAL; 1983-France-in French with English subtitles)
Of note, there is no city or pirates.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Chilean auteur Raoul Ruiz (“The Golden Boat”/”Treasure Island”/”Shattered Image”), living in exile in France, directs and writes his provocative surrealist loose version of Peter Pan, that is visually stunning and filled with bizarre visuals (like levitating medicine balls), gives off a horror pic baroque look, remains elusive regarding meaning because it’s irrational, it’s perverse and sexually daring (featuring castration), and its outlandish story is well-acted by its distraught heroineAnne Alvaro.

Of note, there is no city or pirates. The plot-less fairy-tale serves the film-maker well as an exercise in abstract storytelling, as the plot is only a red herring for the director to get his vivid imagination fired up. It’s hypnotic, seductive and unique, but it was too confounding for me to feel comfortable with something that follows only dream logic.

The long-drawn out story involves a sad sleepwalking dreamy virgin spiritualist maid, Isidore (Anna Alvaro), and an angel-faced ten-year-old murderous boy named Pierre Martin (Melvil Poupaud) who has raped and killed his entire family on the island of San Sebastian and who might be her son or lover or her guide to Neverland, which is called here The City of Pirates. There’s also the crazed lone inhabitant of that desolate rocky island’s castle named Toby (Hugues Quester), who keeps Isidore prisoner and believes he’s in an intense incestuous relationship with an imaginary sister.

In this intriguing Ruiz fantasy film, the viewer is challenged to figure out what games and sophistry he’s laying on them, as the surreal fantasy is the form of the allusive pic. It thereby defies rational explanation. The pic asks the viewer to take a leap of faith into Ruiz’s strange humor and absurd storytelling. Though it’s a pic of inspired madness, it’s probably not meant for everyone.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”