Tuesday, August 11, 2015
The Saragossa Manuscript
Now here is a surrealist film that I can not only get behind, but love wholeheartedly. Having previously seen director Wojciech Jerzy Has's 1973 film The Hourglass Sanatorium, which I enjoyed but felt flawed and yet its imagery and atmosphere help it grow in my mind the more I think on it, I wanted to see more from the man. This led me to his most famous film, 1965's The Saragossa Manuscript. A 3 hour surrealist shifting narrative journey brought to us from the supposedly unfilmable book of the same name, written piecemeal by Jan Potocki between 1805-1815 before being left unfinished at the author's death. It stars "The Polish James Dean" Zbigniew Cybulski, just two years before his death. Well, it kinda stars him. Let's get into that...
We spend the majority of the second half of the movie listening to the stories of a gypsy who arrives at the castle, all seen in flashbacks. This is where the movie switches from surreal, dream-like storytelling, to puzzle box, Russian doll kinda storytelling. At one point we are watching a story within a story within a story within a story within a story within a story within a story (I think that's how deep it went, if I counted right). Alphonse himself even expresses his deliriousness in trying to keep up, saying "it's enough to make you crazy."
This is one of the great epics of world cinema, one that's sadly underseen, despite that it's not hard to find, and has a wonderful looking transfer on the DVD I got from my library. And if I can find this in my library in central Oklahoma, wherever you are you can easily find it there as well (or through Netflix, sadly the only Has movie they have). Go see it!