TRES TRISTES TIGRES (1968)

JAIME GRIJALBA

In one of the many joints where Tito –a character in Tres Tristes Tigres, played by Nelson Villagra– hangs around to digress and forget about his daily duties, he meets a bespectacled elderly who demands that the TV be turned off because it is “Chile’s ruin”. Curiously enough, from his first feature film –shot 50 years ago– Raúl Ruiz was able to assert that our country’s culture would follow the paths established by mainstream media, which would soon prevail over the entire public discourse.

This way of thinking continued throughout his career, even expressed in his most popular feature made in Chile before his exile, Palomita Blanca (1973), where all the characters follow a soap opera, the last episode of which paralyzed a nation in political turmoil. The same is true for La Telenovela Errante (2017), shot in 1990 and completed last year, where Chile is nothing more than a country divided into television networks that air different soap operas and have control over the public discourse and consciousness.

But more than anything, this reveals the enormous value of Ruiz’s opera prima when trying to understand the rest of his filmography: the preference for literary adaptation (in this case Alejandro Sieveking’s theatrical piece), the loquacious nature of his characters, his passion for maze-like performances (the way in which Lucho, played by Luis Alarcón, manages to see all of Santiago through empty bottles that reflect light), and the in-depth exploration of the Chilean dialect, going beyond jargon and delving into the cadence of words.

However, Ruiz is mostly attracted by the social reality in Sieveking’s original work, where Tito, his sister Amanda (played by Shenda Román) and their friend Lucho are part of a society that abuses them ad nauseam. But there are limits: Rudy, the posh character played by Jaime Vadell, is the closest they can get to an authority figure, and they will show him no mercy in an attempt to feel freer, even if for only a short while.