One of the pillars of 20th century French culture, Marcel Proust'smulti-tomed Remembrance Of Things Past had already confounded filmmakers as gifted as Joseph Losey and Luchino Visconti before Volker Schlndorff adapted the first volume as Swann In Love in 1984. Now Chilean-born auteur Ral Ruiz has produced a bravura version of the concluding instalment, which draws on all his visual inventiveness and technical ingenuity to capture the artistic synthesis of this epic masterpiece.
Perusing photographs on his deathbed, Marcel (Marcello Mazzarella), a writer subsumed by his calling, is revisited by memories from a life spent among the aristocracy. Awe-struck childhood impressions mingle with fond recollections of lost loves (Beart and Chiara Mastroianni), gossiping socialites (Edith Scob and Marie-France Pisier), matriarchs and mistresses (Deneuve and Elsa Zylberstein), sexual dilettantes (Malkovich and Perez) and reluctant heroes (Pascal Greggory), as time passes from the hopefully vibrant 1880s to the post-trench melancholia of the early 1920s.
As the line between fact and fiction repeatedly blurs, events tumble in on one another, with each triggering a new line of thought. Making inspired use of superimpositions, prismatic lenses and a variety of transitional devices, Ruiz effortlessly marshals his multifarious storylines to keep the action fluent, elegant and sophisticated. Similarly, Ricardo Aronovich's majestic visuals perfectly complement the impeccable set designs that not only recreate the passing periods, but also succeed in bringing them tangibly to life.
It might be argued that Ruiz's baroque, often surrealist, imagery prevents us from peering too deeply into these ostensibly glittering lives, while the endless shifts of focus around this beguiling gallery of characters marginalizes stars like Deneuve, Beart and Malkovich (who is self-consciously imperious as the gay masochist, De Charlus). Yet each performance is a small gem, precisely adding to the brilliance of this exquisite dance to the music of time.