The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) 

Directed by Wojciech Has

Magic potions, Inquisition torture, drunken revelries, voices from beyond the grave, erotic dreams, skull chalices, bosom-baring temptresses and a cast of 18th Century Spanish kooks including geometricians, thieves, demons and cabalists: it’s none other than legendary The Saragossa Manuscript, Polish School iconoclast Wojciech Has’s 1965 Chinese box epic, back in a new print and at its proper (but originally truncated) three-hour runtime. Adapted from Jan Potocki’s esoteric 1805 novel, Saragossa’s only comparable relative is Luis Buñuel, one of the film’s many famous devotees. Has imparts mystery via precisely arranged black and white compositions, sumptuous mise-en-scène and complex narrative pirouettes, rather than full-on mayhem. The film continually multiplies its picaresque labyrinths (at one point there’s a story within a story within a story within a story within a story within a story!) and bawdy, identity-blurring hi-jinks as “Polish James Dean” Zbigniew Cybulski traverses a haunted countryside, led by a pair of apparitional incestuous Moorish sisters seducing him into insanity. “I’ve lost the feeling of where reality ends and fantasy takes over,” the confused nobleman laments. “You mean — poetry,” another come-hither beauty corrects him. Nothing could better describe the subversive paean to the art of storytelling that is The Saragossa Manuscript.

April 4-10 at BAM


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