MYSTERIES OF LISBON, four hours and an intermission from Raúl Ruiz, is in the best Iberian-Mediterranean tradition of tales within tales within tales (think Don Quijote  or The 1001 Nights), each revealing that reality is a little different than was known before. There are beauties to be had here, and moments of wit, and a sort of meditation to be practiced. Moments of tedium? – perhaps, but I would rather call it the quiet pleasure of sustained attention.

It put me in mind of another rather wonderful little film from Portugal, also redolent of the traditions of storytelling, barely more than an hour, with Spanish subtitles, that I saw not long ago at a theater in Madrid. Manoel de Oliviera’s ECCENTRICITIES OF A BLOND-HAIRED GIRL reminded me of Eric Rohmer’s series of “Moral Tales” in that it observes a strip of human behavior intently but without judgment, simply with care and interest.

An act of pure cinematic storytelling (it is, in fact, a story told, to a woman on a train) it follows what happens when a young man sees a beautiful young woman fanning herself in a window across from his office and sets out to meet her. Unlike Ruiz’s four hour epic, I can’t see this being released in the United States, which is our loss.

Check listings for viewing options.

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