Raul Ruiz, who passed away this year after directing over 100 films (with nary a mainstream hit), is an interesting case. It’s not so much that I’ve never really heard a satisfying explanation for some of his more enigmatic films; it’s that satisfying explanations seem to be completely besides the point. Initially, this led me to think that his films focused so exclusively on formal tinkering that they disregarded drama (I think “Michael Bay for grad students” was the line I used at the time). But his style, full of otherworldly images and romantic bursts of music, is also very attuned to human emotions, and when he keeps his foot in something concrete (as he does here), the results are stunning. So what is Mysteries of Lisbon? It’s a graceful merry-go-round of characters, a series of anecdotes and vignettes that keep shifting and morphing into one another over the course of an epic four-hour running time. (Edited down from six, when it aired as a miniseries). At it’s core, and if it were directed in a more prosaic style, it would essentially be one big expository soap opera. But in Ruiz’s hands, and with the enveloping, mesmerizing mood he creates, it becomes something more: a tract on how life is long, complicated, messy, and beautiful, and you can spend your whole life trying to understand it without coming close. RIP.