Combustible Celluloid
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With: Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Beart, John Malkovich, Arielle Dombasle, Gordon Davie, Halil Ergun, James Redford, Jennifer Vandever, Marie-France Pisier, Paul Goldsby, Vincent Perez, Pascal Greggory, Chiara Mastroianni, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marcello Mazzarella
Written by: Raoul Ruiz, Gilles Taurand, based on the novel by Marcel Proust
Directed by: Raoul Ruiz
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 169
Date: 06/16/2000

Time Regained (1999)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Coming Home to Proust

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a movie called Sunshine that ran three hours and was too overly simplified. Now we have a movie called Time Regained that runs three hours and is too overly complicated. Though if I had a choice of which one to see again, it would be Time Regained, without hesitation. Even though I was almost always completely in the dark, this new film by director Raul Ruiz is inventive and astounding in ways I've never seen before.

Based on volume seven -- the final volume -- of Marcel Proust's massive 3000+ page work Remembrance of Things Past (also translated as In Search of Lost Time), Time Regained opens with the writer himself (played by Marcello Mazzarella) on his deathbed. Furniture and props in his bedroom begin to move around, opposite of the movements of the camera, creating a slightly off-kilter depth-of-field. This effect helps establish the memory aspect of this film, as Proust remembers back to a bunch of people he once knew, played by such great performers as Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Beart, and John Malkovich.

I assume it will help you even if you've read some Proust, but there must be a special award for folks who made it all the way through the entire thing to get to the story Time Regained is based on. Still, even without reading the book (I've read the first bit of Swann's Way) one can tell that Ruiz's adaptation of this movie is ingenious. He allows for memory to flit here and there, throwing logic and structure out the window. At one moment we'll be in a room, and the doors will open and we'll be in someplace entirely different. Sometimes time periods change within a single room. Sometimes the memory is cloudy, as if a dream, and things don't seem quite real. Indeed, Time Regained is not unlike David Cronenberg's singular, loose adaptation of William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch (1991).

Ruiz is fascinated by complex stories, and Time Regained is similar in that way to his last two movies, Genealogies of a Crime (1997) and Shattered Image (1998), both very difficult to follow. Yet I never tire of looking at his inventive staging and movement. I find it difficult to recommend a movie in which I had no idea what went on, but I am recommending this movie on the basis of its intense originality and the fact that it made me want to take on the Proust again.

(Note: Malkovich sounds like he's been dubbed by another actor, but in fact it's really him, reading his own lines in French.)

In 2018, KimStim released a much-appreciated and freshly restored Blu-ray; the transfer looks wonderful, perhaps a bit soft and maybe a little contrasty in some shots, but it's a treasure nonetheless. The subtitles appear to be new, and there are two audio mixes, a 2.0 DTS and a 5.1 DTS. Bonuses include a 22-minute interview with film critic Bernard Genin, and the 2018 theatrical trailer.

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