Three Lives & Only One Death (Trois vies & une seule mort)

Three Lives and Only One Death

Your stories don’t interest me at all.

The only other film by Raoul Ruiz to make the list is Time Regained (which was removed from later editions), which I found incredibly disjointed and empty of any substance aside from its visual prowess, but said visual aesthetic was pleasing enough that I, surprisingly to myself, wasn’t too apprehensive about delving into another of the man’s works. This one is still managing to stick around on the List, so one can assume (or at the very least, hope) that this is a far more complete and sewn-together work than his other one. Three Lives and Only One Death is the penultimate film starring Marcello Mastroianni, who has by far one of the coolest names in showbiz, but he’s a damn fine actor as well. I don’t think I’ve seen enough of his films to call myself a fan, but I like him nonetheless. Here, he plays four roles, and if that sounds confusing, I’ll elaborate, as it’s quite simple, given the film’s structure.

The film is actually a series of three stories, with one more follow-up story that links the previous three together. The common thread is Mastroianni, who plays a different person in each of the stories. I won’t spoil the film’s ending, but everything is tied together; I could cite numerous other films with similar end twists like this one, but to do so would be to spoil it, and again, I wouldn’t want to do that. Just be assured, if you try this one and end up confused part of the way through, that there is a reason the film is the way it is, and if you stick it through till the end, it’ll all make sense. This film is like that crazy, oddball kid from middle school, who likes being not overly weird, but just off-putting enough to garner a confused look from you, before moving on to his next shenanigan. Most of the weirdness that made Time Regained what it was can be found here as well, though it’s not nearly as overt; things like separate split-screen focal points, seemingly floating-in-motion set pieces, and an incredibly ambulatory camera. You can really tell this was by the same director, and thankfully (unlike Time Regained), this had a pretty decent plot and story structure to keep the interest through the running time; the split into four half-hour chunks (framed by a man telling the story of the film on a radio show) makes the film that much easier to get through, and the fact that it all ties together at the end makes it even more rewarding. As for Mastroianni himself, he carries this film like there’s no weight on his shoulders at all. Despite this being Mastroianni’s second-to-last film, he shows absolutely no signs of age slowing him down, which is even more amazing given that he would pass away later in the same year this film was released.

Given how I liked the visual side of Time Regained, but detested it for it’s opaque plot and no sense of storytelling, there was really no knowing where I was gonna end up with this one. Well, I’m pleased with how it turned out; this was far better than his other work I’ve seen, and infinitely more entertaining, for just about every reason. I don’t know if I’d call this a must see, but it certainly won’t hurt to give it a try, and you may just find a new favorite here. Just as long as you know the experience you’re going to end up getting, which is why I’m here, you should end up liking this one.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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