Night Across the Street Is Raúl Raiz’s Winking, Mournful Goodbye


“You’ve been utterly incoherent recently,” a colleague remarks to Don Celso (Sergio Hernandez) in Night Across the Street. “I’ve run out of ideas,” Don Celso, on the cusp of retirement and perhaps a greater nothingness, replies. This exchange about incoherence may be the most coherent one made in the last of Raúl Ruiz’s hundred-plus films. Proof that Ruiz was still teeming with ideas himself, Night is a characteristic work of surreal wit and circuitousness—and the filmmaker’s winking but mournful goodbye. Shot in the months before Ruiz’s 2011 death and with posterity heavily in mind, Night Across the Street reveals the multitudes inside Don Celso in pleasurably absurd fragments. People appear, disappear, and find new configurations in a single scene; time goes spongy, and space begins to fold in on itself. In one of his memories, Don Celso’s childhood self (Santiago Figueroa) is asked to name his favorite historical figure. No sooner does little Don Celso name him than Beethoven (Sergio Schmied) appears, not in a cut or a poof of smoke but a gentle tilt and widening of the lens, as though Ruiz were revealing what was there all along. Once conjured, Beethoven lingers into later scenes, mostly keeping quiet. A field trip to the movies gets his biggest reaction: “How tall the people are!” As Don Celso’s retirement banquet approaches, the plotting of his murder begins to obsess him, and the story swerves into nutty melodrama. These are the dreams of a man stepping out of this world, perhaps never more lucid and full of life.