Nucingen Haus -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: Veteran filmmaker returns with truly bizarre art-horror.

Pusan International Film Festival
World Cinema

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Prolific and surreal filmmaker Raoul Ruiz takes on genre filmmaking with this classical haunted-house tale that pivots on the ghosts of the past literally haunting the present. "Nucingen Haus," loosely based on a story by Honore de Balzac, is rich with nontraditional structure, experimental pacing and curious motifs -- all hallmarks of Ruiz's work.

This is art house filmmaking in its purest sense, and a wide release is a long shot, though Ruiz's body of work will put him securely on the festival map.

Wealthy expatriate William James wins a Chilean estate as a gambling payment and promptly ships himself and his wife Anne-Marie to Patagonia to take possession. The house isn't quite empty, and the previous residents are still there, which include creepy housekeeper Ully, current overlord Bastien, the flighty sex kitten Lotte and the beautiful -- and dead -- Leonore. The family slowly begins to exert itself on Anne-Marie, whose sensitive nature makes her susceptible to all sorts of vaguely defined illness.

"Haus'" off-kilter framing recalls Dario Argento (without the graphic violence) and keeps viewers on unstable footing right alongside Anne-Marie. Humorous in a twisted way, everything from dialogue to the way characters walk oozes a general unease that filters through every frame and never lets up until the ambiguous conclusion that raises yet more questions.

Cast: Jean-Marc Barr, Elsa Zylberstein, Audrey Marnay, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Laurent Malet.
Director/screenwriter/production designer: Raoul Ruiz.
Producer: Francois Margolin.
Director of photography: Inti Briones.
Music: Jorge Arriagada.
Editor: Beatrice Clericco.
Sales agent: UMedia.
No rating, 94 minutes.
production: Margo Films, Mact Prods.