NUCINGEN HOUSE (LA MAISON NUCINGEN) (director: Raoul Ruiz; cinematographer: Inti Briones; editor: Beatrice Clerrico; music: Jorge Arriagada; cast: Jean-Marc Barr (William Henry James III), Elsa Zylberstein (Anne-Marie), Audrey Marnay (Léonore), Laurent Malet (Bastien), Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (Lotte), Thomas Durand (Dieter), Luis Mora (Family Doctor), Miriam Heard (Ully); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Francois Margolin; Margo Films; 2008-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Is not for those who can’t handle the strange, enigmatic and dark tales usually associated with a Ruiz film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Innovative France-based Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz (“Klimpt”/”Savage Soul”) helms a minor surreal otherworldly haunted house film, told in flashback. It’s structured as a dream narrative and as a story within a story told in flashback. The experimental art house film, part camp and part intellectual musings on memory, is not for those who can’t handle the strange, enigmatic and dark tales usually associated with a Ruiz film.Wealthy American expatriate William James (Jean-Marc Barr), a former pulp novelist, goes against the wishes of his fragile wife Anne-Marie (Elsa Zylberstein) to gamble and wins in a wager a Chilean estate, called the Nucingen House, and immediately goes for rest and relaxation in that Patagonia residence with his wife. The previous eccentric residents are still there as possibly ghosts, which include the creepy insomniac housekeeper Ully (Miriam Heard), the reluctant to leave broke current patriarch Bastien ( Laurent Malet), a nervous young man (Thomas Durand), the flighty and flirty Lotte (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre), a long-time family physician house-guest (Luis Mora) and the beautiful but deceased Leonore (Audrey Marnay). The family slowly begins to crowd in on the emotionally vulnerable Anne-Marie, whose sensitive nature makes her ill when feeling threatened.For most of the movie Ruiz plays ghostly games, which are weirdly imaginative, absurd and darkly comical. It messes with time in its non-linear story telling. The gambler tells his own version of the tale through his lapsed memories. He tells his version years removed from living in the house when hearing fellow diners at a restaurant tell their third-hand version. The writer’s story may be a true life experience or mistaken as only his memories of a story he wrote. The ambiguous comedy offers no answers to the mysteries it raises, as it instead seems satisfied leaving the viewer as uneasy as was Elsa Zylberstein in the house that might have had ghosts. The unusual film is interesting just for being so confusing and confounding. Some might be convinced it’s merely all playfully tongue and cheek and in its illogical presentation meant to challenge the viewer’s way of watching films. I just thought it was Ruiz being Ruiz, but not working with top material.
REVIEWED ON 7/2/2016 GRADE: B