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home > awards > Lifetime Achievement Award 2008: Arturo Ripstein
 Arturo Ripstein.

Lifetime Achievement Award 2008

FIPRESCI Honors a Great Personality of Latin American Cinema
Arturo Ripstein: Poet of the Dark Side of the Mexican Bourgeoisie
By Klaus Eder

Castle of Purity.
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"Castle of Purity"
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The Realm of Fortune.
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"The Realm of Fortune"

In 1988, I happened to see a surprising film, The Realm of Fortune (El imperio de la fortuna). I did not know much (not to say nothing) about the filmmaker, a certain Arturo Ripstein, but got curious to see more of his work so I visited him in Mexico City, with the idea of maybe inviting him (and his films) to the Munich Film Festival. I remember two exciting weeks of chasing prints at a variety of companies and seeing dozens of videos at night on a rented TV set in the hotel. And I remember charming and stimulating meetings with Paz Alicia Garciadiego, his screenwriter and partner in life, and with Ripstein himself who turned out to be a witty, eloquent and open-minded Mexican intellectual with a wonderful gift of irony and self-irony. One of the jewels I could see at this occasion was a (never published) short 16-mm film made by the young Arturo, shot in his kitchen and showing Luis Bunuel mixing cocktails. Bunuel was a friend of the family (Arturo's father Alfredo was one of Mexico's leading producers), and it was at the Bunuel shootings where he got familiar with the milieu of movies.

This visit to Mexico allowed me to discover one of the most excellent and original personalities of Latin American cinema — even if the end of the 80s were only 'half time' in Ripstein's work. His career continued successfully into the 90s and 2000s, with entries in the Cannes and Venice competitions and retrospectives following the first one of Munich in 1989, with calls into juries. However, his unmistakable filmic universe had already been shaped in his early work, and he varied, fine-tuned and daringly extended it until his latest film El Carnaval de Sodoma (2006). A film by Arturo Ripstein can distinctively be recognized as a film by Arturo Ripstein. Even if he worked always within the existing structures of the Mexican film industry, he (almost) always managed to make the films he wanted to make: a real author.

Arturo Ripstein's universe is painfully and hermetically closed; there's no way out. It's a dark world without exit. It's also a universe which, in its surreal aspects, is influenced by writers (Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Marquez, Juan Rulfo, José Donoso, also Manuel Puig and, surprisingly, Naguib Mahfouz). Ripstein manages to build, with power and without pity (and preferably using long shots and an artificially moving camera), invisible walls around his characters, as if they lived in a prison — a prison made up by the Mexican society and its social and moral conventions and its strong Catholicism (which he sometimes contests with a cynical anti-clericalism). In Castle of Purity (El castillo de la pureza) these walls are even tangible: a family is not allowed to leave its house. In Ripstein's grief-stricken micro cosmos, 'society' is fully present — as in The Queen of the Night (La reina de la noche), where the story of a bohemian folk singer in the 40s is populated with immigrants from Spain and Germany. That's why Ripstein is not at all an apolitical filmmaker — just the opposite. He finds and analyses politics in the kitchen of ordinary people — meaning us all; some of his films are melodramatic studies of an ordinary fascism, others show the vulnerability of human beings. It's difficult to elude this dark world which penetrates its characters merciless until it finds the hidden corners of their souls — like Dionisio Pinzón in The Realm of Fortune, whose rise and fall touches all the ups and downs of human existence.

Arturo Ripstein is the poet of the dark side of the Mexican bourgeoisie. He tells Mexican stories which involve us all, and he tells them in a highly personal and, at the same time, very Mexican style. After having seen his films you'll see Mexico with other eyes.

It's an honor and a pleasure to present him the recognition of the international critics for his work.

Klaus Eder
© FIPRESCI 2008

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