|4:00 p.m.||The Suspended Vocation|
Raúl Ruiz (France, 1977)
(La vocation suspendue). “There is a phrase ascribed to both St. Augustine and Stalin: in a besieged citadel, all dissidence is treason,” notes Ruiz of this dizzying, narratively perverse tale. “Thus my counter-argument: in order to survive, all institutions must behave as besieged citadels.” In this adaptation of a Pierre Klossowski novel, there exist three separate films by the Catholic Church about rival factions debating truth, interpretation, and art: each was begun in a different year (1942, 1962, and 1971), and embodies the lies, denials, and institutional controls of its time. Suspended Vocation is all three “versions” as one; like the ideas of the characters in the films, different actors, film stocks, and aesthetics also compete for supremacy. This being Ruiz at his most tongue-in-cheek and dryest, it’s finally not just the Catholic Church that’s besieged, but an even more sacred cow: cinema. “I was surprised by the French reaction,” he recalled, “because no one laughed during screenings except me.” The great Sacha Vierny (Last Year at Marienbad; Belle de Jour) contributes the film’s cinematography.
• Written by Ruiz, based on the novel by Pierre Klossowski. Photographed by Sacha Vierny. With Gabriel Gascon, Didier Flamand, Pascal Bonitzer, Maurice Bénichou. (107 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 16mm, From BFI Collections, permission Valeria Sarmiento)