The Real Presence & Snakes and Ladders

Film Still

Part of the brilliance of Raul Ruiz rests in his capacity to take on routine documentary assignments for French television and turn them into mind-bending fictions. That’s what happened with this provocative hour-long 1984 film about an actor at the 1983 Avignon Theater Festival; it ingeniously balances reporting on an actual event with Ruizian yarn spinning. Even more impressive is the accompanying 20-minute 1980 short Le jeu de l’oie (Snakes and Ladders) — which was commissioned to promote a map exhibition at Paris’s Pompidou Center — an awesome and hilarious metaphysical fantasy with the tattiest special effects this side of Edward D. Wood Jr., and one of the most purely pleasurable works in the Ruizian canon. Taken separately or together, these gems provide a perfect introduction to the imaginative and labyrinthine universe of a prodigious filmmaker. Ruiz, a graceful and easygoing commentator on his own work, will introduce the films and answer questions at the Saturday screening. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, April 20, 6:00, and Saturday, April 21, 6:15, 443-3737)

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