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Movie Poster of the Week: Raúl Ruiz’s “Lines of Wellington”

A sad memento of the late, great Raúl Ruiz: a poster for a film that will never be made.

I had intended to post a different Movie Poster of the Week this morning when I heard the sad news about the passing of the great Raúl Ruiz. This poster may be the saddest memento of all, since it is for a film that will now never be made. Announced in Cannes this spring, the epic Napoleonic-era Lines of Wellington was to have been produced by Paulo Branco’s Alfama Films and was being pitched as “War and Peace in Portugal.” Scripted by Carlos Saboga, who also adapted Mysteries of Lisbon, the film, based on the memoirs of some of Napoleon’s generals, was to chronicle the defeat of Napoleon’s troops during the third French invasion of Portugal in 1810-11. The poster, which I discovered on the website Le Cinema de Raúl Ruiz, is a pre-release teaser which may never even have been printed (though perhaps it was hanging in the Alfama Films booth in Cannes). Since the film hadn’t been cast when it was designed it stands out in its elegant simplicity from the star-centric, floating-head posters (this one literally) which usually publicized Ruiz’s films. Though rare was the poster which actually did Ruiz’s baroque visual imagination justice.

Also tentatively titled Débâcle, Lines of Wellington was planned as both a two-hour feature and a three-part TV series. Ruiz was to begin shooting this September. In A.O. Scott’s excellent profile in the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago, Ruiz hinted that the film would be much in the spirit of the Mysteries of Lisbon novelist Camilo Castelo Branco. As C. Mason Wells wrote on Twitter this morning, it is “already one of the great unrealized projects of the cinema.”

Napoleon films seem to have a curse. RIP Raúl Ruiz.
thanks for this adrian. so sad.
This film coulda been amazing. Yet, it seems like Ruiz to leave half-finished or suggested traces of projects and possibilities.
I agree Daniel, though this project seemed more than a whisper. Of course it is rather perverse to bemoan one unrealized film when there are maybe 70 or 80 Ruiz films that even the most committed cinephile has not seen. And so many recent Ruiz projects were realized only to disappear, like this unlikely gem that you alerted me to. But what makes Lines of Wellington most regrettable is that Ruiz was on such a roll. As Dave Kehr wrote on his blog: “after a relatively fallow decade, he seemed to be have recovered his fierce creativity with Mysteries of Lisbon” and the fact that he was to work with Branco and Saboga again, not to mention the rumored casting of Mathieu Amalric, makes Wellington the one that got away.
Not to belabor the point, but for future Ruiz historians I have found more information on the proposed film under a different title, As Linhas de Torres, on this Portuguese production site as well as an IMDb entry with the tentative cast list.
Excellent call, Adrian. Ah ruiz the day that man died… Mysteries of Lisbon novelist Camilo Castelo Branco is also the lead character in Manoel de Oliveira’s film Francisca. What better tribute than to screen this film in every cinema in the land? First Mani Kaul, now Ruiz Raul, two rhyming deaths in a month. Conspiracy! Here’s an awesome interview with the great man promoting his worst film:
IMP Awards doesn’t allow direct linking to images:
As someone who’s never seen a Ruiz but always admired someone who had the guts to make 100 films before the age of 50, I’d love to see another director of Iberian descent take on the project.
The producer Paulo Branco said he wants to continue with the film and that Ruiz left many instructions in case he was unable to complete it. I hope it’s offered to Ruiz’s widow, Valeria Sarmiento – herself a very fine director. She edited Mysteries of Lisbon and was also Ruiz’s cinematic accomplice for 40 odd years.
I don’t know anything about Sarmiento’s films, ExperimentoFilm — what are they like?
She has directed melodramas and comedies (usually written by or co-written with Ruiz) and documentaries, often with a particular emphasis on women and children. Here’s her showreel and the trailer for her latest.
I’m reading that that she will indeed be taking over direction of the film. Hope it’s true.
OK, latest info says the film is going be released as: “A Raúl Ruiz film directed by Valeria Sarmiento with the collaboration of Carlos Saboga.” It says directed by Sarmiento and Ruiz (and written by Saboga).
The filme is done. It is now in post-production stage.

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