So, I'm late with this, but I've been so swamped this month and have so many other blog posts to get done that this kind of slipped my mind. It also happens that I wasn't entirely thrilled with my Blind Spot this month, which always makes it hard to muster up motivation to actually write a review for it. It's hard because I didn't hate it, so I can't rip it apart, but I really didn't love it, so I can't lavishly praise it, and so I wind up wishing I could just gush some more over that awesome new Xavier Dolan news.
But alas, I can't.
So, a few years ago I settled in to watch a film that proved to be such a rich and transformative experience for me that I was instantly invested in the film’s director. That film was ‘The Mysteries of Lisbon’ and that director was Raoul Ruiz. Unfortunately, the bar was set so high with my first Ruiz film that each film I’ve seen since has paled in comparison and proved a disappointment of sorts. Granted, I’ve only seen three films from the Portuguese director, and so I have a lot more to see and discover, but as of now I’m afraid my expectations are too high.
Seriously, ‘The Mysteries of Lisbon’ is such a masterpiece.
‘Three Crowns of the Sailor’ is an odd film that flirts with greatness in many parts and yet fails to really ground itself in something tangible, creating a film that feels almost aloof, uneven or even unsure of what it’s trying to say and relate. The narrative is an intriguing vantage point and yet not thoroughly constructed and so it winds up feeling more of a gimmicky distraction than a storytelling asset.
The basic premise is that of a sailor who encounters a student who recently murdered a man, and he offers to tell him his life story for three Danish crowns (krone). His story is a tall tale of sorts, a story of a man trapped to servitude on a ghost ship that travels from continent to continent, and it is with each resting point that our sailor finds another story to tell, another tall tale to recount. These stories are intriguing and at times visually captivating on their own and yet strung together they fail to carry much weight or make much of an impression. They become lost in a narrative that never wholly connects them or makes them feel integral to the overall story and so we are left with loosely related episodes that capture our interest for a time but fade from memory rather quickly. If this were a collection of short stories penned in literary form then I could see how one could be captivated by them, but they don’t fit together properly and so, in cinematic form, they feel uneven and unimportant.
I wanted to love this, but it just didn’t work for me. The acting is fine enough, but nothing really noteworthy, and Ruiz’s direction is spotty at best, making impacts in parts but failing as a whole. The real star here is the visual quality of the film, the grainy cinematography and the brilliant set designs (especially that creepy doll-cluttered whorehouse).
But as a story, this needed more work.