City of Pirates

Another seductive, confounding fantasy film by Raul Ruiz (The Three Crowns of the Sailor), this one is a potent blend of themes and images drawn from the avant-garde of the 1920s, Victorian children's stories, and Hammer horror films. It's useless to describe the plot, which flows with perfect dream logic from one mysterious episode to the next, but the overall atmosphere is one of violent whimsy, a combination of murderous intent and innocent appearance. The chief characters are a sleepwalking virgin (Anna Alvaro), a ten-year-old boy (Melvil Poupaud) who has raped and killed his entire family, and the lone inhabitant of an island castle (Hugues Quester) who shares his body with an imaginary sister. In a period dominated by fantastic filmmaking, Ruiz is perhaps the only director to extend the play of fantasy to the level of form: his methods are as wildly imaginative as his subjects, and his films are games we play by trying to discover the rules.

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