Welles, Lacan and Borges Unite in Poker-Faced 1997 Meta-Mystery


One of Raul Ruiz’s more penetrable Chinese boxes, this poker-faced 1997 meta-mystery—as much shaggy-dog story as intellectual prank—is based on the true, turn-of-the-century story of a psychoanalyst who detected homicidal tendencies in her young nephew and was eventually murdered by him. Catherine Deneuve plays the shrink (in flashback) and also the lawyer who defends the teenage killer (Melvil Poupaud). A cursory investigation implicates the Franco-Belgian Psychoanalytic Society (!), a legion of kooks (led by a spirited Michel Piccoli) whose therapy sessions constitute the ritual stagings of elaborate tableaux vivant. With typical offhandedness, Genealogies combines Wellesian angles, Lacanian theories, and Borgesian gold dust. As the latticework of overlapping fictions gets more complicated, non sequiturs, word games, and surrealist goofs pile up—most amusingly an ethnopsychologist who spouts nonsense literary analogies (“Paul Auster without New York,” he muses, inspecting the decor of a law office). No extras.