A extraordinary surreal and deeply poetic film, variously evoking the work of Buñuel, Cocteau, Hitchcock and Jodorowsky.
It offers a cinematic experience both lurid and overwrought, but also rich, complex and mysterious. Ruiz seems an under-appreciated genius and this may be his most singular creation.
Strangely beautiful and beautifully strange. City of Pirates, is Ruiz's most Ruizian masterpiece. Though I prefer Three Crowns of a Sailor it's criminal that Criterion hasn't given the lavish treatment to at least one Ruiz film.
While Ruiz had come to cinema very much the unschooled amateur, by the early 80s he had evolved into a master (though still essentially an amateur of decidedly modest means). The complicated Russian-doll stories he tells, often riven w/ split identities and dominated by opaque machinations, speak to the influence of Latin American literature. His visual style (utterly remarkable) begins to owe much to Welles.
The soundtrack is dauntingly beautiful. Love the cinematography as well, and what a treat all those intertwined narratives are...really loved. Saw it twice, on the SILVER SCREEN! Both the opening and ending sequences, are to die for, and man oh man, he shot the whole film, in my homeland (Portugal!), and with my dear beloved (sadly deceased) Dr Bénard da Costa, Chairman of our awesome Portuguese Cinematheque.
Cinema is actually magic & dreams & nightmares are all completely true & cameras can do shit your dumb eyeballs can't. Ruiz's film is like Leonora Carrington's novel 'The Stone Door': full of shifting identities, occult rituals, and images that shake the subconscious.