THE WANDERING SOAP OPERA
A film by Raúl Ruiz & Valeria Sarmiento
(La telenovela errante, Chile, 1990/2017, 80 min. In Spanish with English subtitles, )
NEW YORK THEATRICAL PREMIERE RUN!
Raúl Ruiz passed away in 2011, but it should come as little surprise that a filmmaker as mind-bogglingly prolific, subversive, and mischievous as Ruiz wouldn’t let that get in the way of releasing a new film. The footage that comprises The Wandering Soap Opera was the result of a 6-day workshop that Ruiz gave for actors and technicians in his native Chile in 1990, during his first return visit since his departure for France following Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup d’état.
Restored and completed by Valeria Sarmiento—Ruiz’s wife and editor, and an accomplished filmmaker in her own right—The Wandering Soap Opera turns out to be far more than a curiosity. Its status as Ruiz’s first post-dictatorship Chilean film would alone qualify it as an important film within his vast oeuvre (Ruiz made more than 100 films over the course of his career), but above and beyond that historical significance it proves to be a typically dazzling and inventive work that embeds a penetrating portrait of a society transfigured by the effects of almost 20 years of a repressive dictatorship into the form of a Borgesian parody of telenovela conventions.
The Wandering Soap Opera contains passages that are as deadpan funny and astonishingly resourceful as anything in Ruiz’s body of work, while Sarmiento’s elegant assemblage (she bookends Ruiz’s own material with footage of him leading the workshop) renders the final product a moving tribute to an extraordinary filmmaker for whom even a hundred films wasn’t enough.
Distributed by The Cinema Guild.
“The film is based on the idea…that ‘there’s no such thing as Chilean reality,’ that reality in his country is a series of soap operas. Ruiz specialized in making wry comments about his homeland: one episode in his film bears the heading, ‘If you behave badly in this life, you become Chilean in the next one. R.R.’” –Jonathan Romney, Film Comment
“In the funny and perverse The Wandering Soap Opera, the arch conventions of TV have seeped into the real world and vice versa until everyone not only is a star in his or her own strange show, but is aware of and watches the shows others star in.” –Daniel Kasman, MUBI