Time Regained

Reviewed By iF Magazine
Posted 02/22/01 22:31:38

"A stylistic masterpiece."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Few filmmakers have been successful transferring any of French author Marcel Proustís novels to the screen. The reason is that Proust doesnít really concentrate on plot instead he deals with a heady mixture of literary and historical references wrapped in the concept and themes of memory and time. The only filmmakers who would be able to translate Proust to the screen would be those who fully use the cinematic resources such as experimental filmmakers or maybe Terry Gilliam.

Even though Chilean born Raul Ruiz is not a bankable director he is the perfect filmmaker to translate Proust to the screen. He has made over 70 films and has developed a full range of surreal cinematic tricks that lend themselves well to the paradoxes, the difficulty and the sheer density of Proust.

TIME REGAINED is based on Proustís masterwork "In Search of Lost Time" and is replete with enough historical, literary references, intellectual ideas and creative cinematic style that it has enough to fill three movies. Part of what Ruiz does is blend reality with fiction (within the context of the film) and then makes a comment on the concept of memory as it relates to the period of time, which was right around World War I. The setting is among all the high society Parisians, whom Proust viewed as mere puppets, locked into fatuous bourgeois obligations and senseless schemes.

With its magnificent cinematography and stunning art direction TIME REGAINED is at the very least a stylistic masterpiece. Ruiz crams each frame with furniture, statues and people who move from one impressive place to another. Whatís best is that he -- along with his cinematography Ricardo Araonovich -- carves out a space with the camera, which freely glides through and around the fancy aristocratic dinner parties with the greatest of ease. At times the furniture and the set pieces move along voluntarily with the camera.

Anyone familiar with the work of French filmmaker Alain Resnais -- who made the great memory film LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD -- will recognize that Ruizís references their style. Ruiz proves that there is no reason Proust cannot be filmed. He simple rewrites and bends the rules -- like Resnais -- by effortlessly and magically jumping back and forth in time and place. For instance, if he wants to show a character flying, or if he wants to turn a group of people into statues or better yet imperceptibly leap from one year to the next then he does it.

The film starts in 1922 with Marcel (Marcello Mazzarella) on his deathbed and then, as he thinks back on the past, the film becomes a free for all as far as chronology is concerned. He moves about in time from old age to middle age to childhood and in his memory and thought process from brief encounters to lost loves, past desires to forfeited hopes and the success and failures and observations of his life.

TIME REGAINED stars a great number of French actors including Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Beart, Vincent Perez and Pascal Greggory and one American actor, John Malkovich who plays a baron with a sadomasochist streak.

Suffice it to say that itís difficult to write a review that can summarize the "plot" or do the film justice. Except to say that the film will enchant some, cause confusion for others and if anything, will be more admired than liked. If anything viewers can glean the meaning of Proust without having to read him or, better still, the movie may serve as a springboard to begin understanding his work.-- Matt Langdon

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