1. Night Across the Street (2012)

    The late Chilean director Raúl Ruiz’s final film is one of the cinema’s grandest, most graceful farewells to life. Its protagonist, Celso Robles, an aging bachelor and small-town office clerk on the verge of retirement, is a poetic dreamer and local character whose musings are infused with a premonition of his own mortality, in the person of his landlady’s nephew, whom he suspects of plotting to kill him. The town’s charming romantic intrigues meld with Celso’s reminiscences of childhood; his erstwhile fantasies—involving Long John Silver, who taught him the art of living; the novelist Jean Giono, who awakened his literary imagination; and Beethoven, whom he introduced to electricity and movies—join with visions of the grudges, joys, and political conflicts that marked his prodigious youth. But when death takes over, it does so in a series of fanciful masterstrokes—such as an ingenious rechannelling of 007’s spiral-grooved gun barrel—that exalt and prolong the last glimmer of life even as they embrace death with noble serenity. Ingenious digital effects turn nostalgic and chatty home-town strolls into dreamlike adventures, but ultra-low-tech toys become Ruiz’s tenderly exuberant metaphor for the surprising ricochets of an entire lifetime’s play of memory.

    Richard Brody

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