Shot entirely in 1990 as part of a filmmaking workshop but never completed during Ruiz’s lifetime (he passed away in 2011), The Wandering Soap Opera was posthumously completed by Ruiz’s wife and longtime collaborator, Valeria Sarmiento—and we should all be thankful for her efforts. A hilarious and absurd send-up of (or perhaps homage to) mainstream Chilean telenovelas, Ruiz fashions a broad look at the Chile of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet had just been swept from office in a crucial election. Episodic and “wandering” in content, each of the film’s segments—while not overtly connected—become a larger tapestry in which we get a full view of Ruiz’s comic and conceptual genius. “Clearly relishing the stylistic leeway afforded by the genre—the film’s prismatic color palette and exaggerated decoupage provide enough aesthetic pleasures to make one mourn yet again the absence of one of cinema’s great stylists—Ruiz takes as fanciful an approach to the film’s visual design as he does its object of critique. Ruiz, an artist of countless stories and endless discoveries, lived life to the fullest, never betraying his devious sense of humor, even from beyond the grave: ‘If you behave badly in this life, you’ll become a Chilean in the next,’ reads the final episode’s introductory title card.”—Jordan Cronk, Film Comment.
Appears in: Essential Cinema