25 June 2011 | chaos-rampant
About fictions and seeing
As I finish off my first chapter in the cinema of Ruiz and about to move on to the 90's, Blind Owl serves as the encapsulation of what he stood for at the time. Not as inviting as previous films, perhaps more opaque, more difficult to navigate. So not a fiction film but about fiction, immortal stories without particular author or answer, that always seem to begin by their narrator with "I heard a story..", about stories as the window into the imaginative mind, about dream realities as the strange canvas where these imaginations unfold.
The preface here is about a projectionist going to work in a cinema playing Arab movies; to which the audience is seemingly indifferent, watching blind like owls. One of these movies he plays serves as his window into the imaginative world, once he becomes intoxicated by the allure of a woman dancing on screen. What is her mystery, why doesn't she return his gaze (meaning she avoids it)? Other stories are piled on this. Something about a pious Muslim man looking for his uncles, one dead the other crazy, and for someone whom Allah deemed more pious than he. At this point the movie switches to subtitled Arab and Spanish and becomes a whimsical myth. Another story is about twin brothers in Grenada (later Cordoba) who fall in love with twin girls, a way by which the two think they can become one. This part exudes the lush, exotic scent of a Hollywood melodrama about Salome.
Of course these stories seep back into the theater, where the awestruck projectionist is marveling by the sides at their flickering mystery. But there is the problem of the pastiche; when anything can happen in a film, nothing matters very much. Some of what we have here is lost in the overall smörgåsbord of images and moods, there is too much. I don't know then if it takes immense discipline or going with the flow, but Ruiz comes up with some crude gems in all this.
So we get a butcher in a marketplace holding up a cow's eye, proclaiming it his god. So this is the highest principle available to us, seeing (not interpreting). Various fantasies governed by unspeakable desires, the pursuit of wild chimeras and ineffable loves, more importantly the desire to be made whole again, we see in the film where the mind leads us, how it obscures the true picture from us.
This is the function of fiction then in the world of Ruiz. Maps, stories, dream fantasies, alluring stratagems all about the artificial worlds we create in the mind, the stories we make up and inhabit so that we may avoid the real one (which may appear mundane, but only because we're looking to avoid it).