DARK AT NOON
(Loeil qui ment)
The pre-release publicity for Dark at Noon describing it as being set in a town where miracles are so commonplace that they have become an annoyance makes it sound a far more interesting film than it is. There is the odd amusing image of a surprisingly playful Virgin Mary who mirrors peoples gestures and pelts the priest back with the stones he throws to drive her away but it is only part of a muddled and incomprehensible whole. Certainly, there is an idea there that would maybe make for a good film by somebody like Terry Gilliam some day but Dark at Noon is not that film.
It is however the sort of rambling incomprehensibility that might be expected from Chilean-born director Raul Ruiz. Ruiz seems like a surrealist in search of something to say. The film is filled with various surreal images fields filled with crutches; villagers stumbling zombie-like around the town; giant marble hands that come crashing through roofs; growths of fuzz that sprout out of paintings on the wall; David Warner who has an inexplicable habit of drugging people and then burying them alive which are occasionally to do with the story but are mostly totally disconnected. Ruiz has no idea of plot when he finally does get the film together to say something, what he does start talking about people becoming ghosts incarnated in John Hurts body, Hurt trying to find an androgyne to incarnate in is so incomprehensible it makes no sense at all. How Ruiz managed to attract top-drawer actors like John Hurt and David Warner to star in such a mangled script is a miracle in itself.
Ruiz lacks much idea of direction either, twisting his camera at 90 degree angles and throwing in double exposures for no apparent purpose. Even at a commercially acceptable 102 minutes, the films pace drags. At least, Dark at Noon is more together than the last Raul Ruiz film I saw, City of Pirates (1983), and is not without its occasional moments of humour.
Raul Ruizs other ventures into surrealism and fabulism include:- Life is a Dream (1985), episodes of the modernised tv series A TV Dante (1989-91), The Secret Journey (1994), Three Lives and Only One Death (1996), the English-language Shattered Image (1998), Comedy of Innocence (2000), Love Torn in Dream (2000), A Place Among the Living (2003), That Day (2003), Days in the Country (2004), The Long Domain (2005), Love and Virtue (2008) and Nucingen House (2008). Though he was prolific, the majority of Ruizs films did not receive widespread releases, least of all in English-speaking countries.