Time Regained

The narrator Marcel (Mazzarella) explores both the fact and fiction in his life ... but which is which?
dir Raoul Ruiz
scr Gilles Taurand, Raoul Ruiz
with Marcello Mazzarella, Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Beart, Vincent Perez, John Malkovich, Chiara Mastroianni, Elsa Zylberstein, Christian Vadim, Pascal Greggory, Marie-France Pisier, Arielle Dombasle
99/France 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Leave it to arthouse guru Ruiz to adapt Marcel Proust's "unfilmable" novel for the big screen! Time Regained is one of those incomprehensible yet absolutely mesmerising Films (with a capital F) about just about everything ... and nothing at the same time. It's impossible to describe, its stylistic flourishes are fascinating, and even though it makes virtually no sense whatsoever, it holds us tightly in its grip for the full 2 hours 40 minutes.

Roughly, the story centres on Proust himself as an old man reflecting on his life, which blurs together with his fiction to form a whole new reality in his mind, as well as an examination of the nature of literature--the relationship between a writer and the characters he creates. As the narrator (Mazzarella) moves through various scenes from the first half of this century, we meet all sorts of colourful characters who talk about everything in minute detail ... and with an almost infuriating vagueness.

Ruiz jams the film with amazing visual trickery, repeating themes and images, very good performances (most notably from Deneuve and Malkovich) and intriguing yet perplexing symbolism. The result is beautiful and evocative--the design is utterly realistic and ethereal at the same time. And the sheer depth and quantity of ideas is almost overwhelming ... even if it's impossible to make any real sense of it without a scholarly understanding of Proust. Yes, it's almost overwhelmingly arty--and rather maddening at that! But if you can disengage the need for coherent plotting and straightforward characters, there are all kinds of riches in here.

[18--adult themes and situations] 13.Dec.99
UK release 7.Jan.00; US release 16.Jun.00

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1999 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall