The Saragossa Manuscript

Director: Wojciech Has
Year Released: 1965
Rating: 1.5

Something of a hustle, really: Has' film, which is over three hours long and uses flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks as some sort of wry joke, demands you pay very close attention to the stories being told, or else you'll quickly get lost as to what is going on or who the characters are. A familiar reference point is The Arabian Nights, though I kept thinking of Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler... and the narrator's changing up the story whenever he feels like it, most often at the expense of the reader, who started to invest personal interest in the characters. Some seem genuinely enthused by the meta-narrative and parlor games, but my reaction is similar to the negative criticism (by others) fired at Mulholland Drive, and that is that the movie doesn't seem to come to any particular conclusion or tie the loose elements up, leaving the large cast stranded in their own little tales. Fascinating concept, but the one-note premise cannot withstand the hefty running time, leaving you feeling exhausted, puzzled and slightly robbed.