1922. On his deathbed, Marcel Proust is looking through photos, remembering his life. But the real characters mingle with the fictional ones. And gradually, fiction wins out over reality.
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"When Paulo Branco asked me to do a script of 'Time Regained' for Raoul Ruiz, I thought he'd dialed the wrong number. Nothing in what I'd done suggested that I was the right screenwriter for this kind of exercise—or madness. I'd read 'Remembrance of Things Past' in a fairly casual way, between the age seventeen and twenty, and I always postponed reading it again, which would have obviously revealed that I'd missed the point.
"Paulo talked about Catherine Deneuve, who had agreed in principle to play Odette, and about Raoul, who would soon return from Chile with specific ideas, and also about Pascal Bonitzer, who was unfortunately unavailable.
"And of course in these circumstances, friends always butt in—they can't help pointing out that the likes of Losey and Visconti gave up and that, in the end, trying to adapt Proust for the screen is pure heresy. But I still had to meet Ruiz—'to see his hand,' as they say in poker."
(Gilles Taurand, Screenwriter)
Raúl Ruiz achieves the seemingly impossible with this adaptation of the final volume of In Search of Lost Time. It is a film at once wholly faithful to Proust and to the distinctive vision of its director. Inventing a cinematic equivalent to the novelist’s “involuntary memory,” Ruiz creates a permeable fiction in which every image opens on another and every level of the remembrance—from Marcel’s cozy childhood memories to his struggles to recall the past—exists on the same plane. The film is a casting miracle, as the actors (leading figures of the contemporary French cinema) are perfect physical and emotional matches for Proust’s characters: Catherine Deneuve as the aging Odette, Emmanuelle Béart as Gilberte, Vincent Perez as the vain Morel, Pascal Greggory as the effete Saint-Loup, Marie-France Pisier as the braying Madame Verdurin. And John Malkovich, delivering his own French dialogue, finds a soul mate in the grandly decadent Baron de Charlus. For those who know the novel, Ruiz’s film sets off its own chain of memories and associations; for those who do not, it serves as a superb introduction to the shape and texture of the Proustian universe.
© Dave Kehr, SFIFF 2000