The absurdly prolific Raoul Ruiz is one of the cinema's great intellectual pranksters, a kind of Borges with bad attitude. His recent movies have been sleek, glassy shaggy-dog stories, full-blooded embodiments of Woody Allen's phrase, "a mockery of a travesty of a sham." Points-of-view are upended, distorted, distended. Ruiz bounds arcana and oddball lore into the drawing room or cafe and puts an even more intricate spin on already confusing plots. Catherine Deneuve stars as a lawyer drawn to lost causes, who finds herself enmeshed in the conspiracies of the French-Belgian Psychoanalytic Society. That group is conspiring, it seems, against her client's psychoanalyst, the quietly mad Michel Piccoli. (Two feuding analysts trade a fusillade of childlike invective in a cafe, allowing Piccoli to steal a spoon, tucking it neatly into his breast pocket.) Deneuve plays another character, in flashbacks, who grows almost as maddening as her own madwoman of a mother spinning out insane dreams on her analyst's couch. As one analyst comments on an office decor, "It's Kafka, mmm, Paul Auster without New York, Robbe-Grillet, basically." The whirligigs of profession and status turn and spit parts into the clouds, leading at last to a mass suicide of psychoanalysts that is sweetly droll. The malady of storytelling infects all of Ruiz's work; it's amazing that his leaps through the mirror ever wind up in American movie houses. Jorge Arriagada contributes his usual jaunty, mocking score. 113m.
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