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Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 01/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I adore this film. It is made by a Polish director with Polish actors based on a Polish novel but the look of the film is decidedly Spanish surrealism. Its a film best watched late at night when one is most receptive to surrealisms night time agenda which speaks to and from the subconscious illogic of dreams. Each storyline vanishes into another storyline until characters from separate storylines begin to appear together as the various storylines wind around each other like snakes round the limb of a tree--an oft repeated visual in the film. The opening sequence follows a soldier during the Napoleanic Wars as he takes refuge in a house where he finds the Saragossa Manuscript full of surreal drawings and stories. This book fascinates its reader so much the deafening sounds of the surrounding battle disappear as he begins to read...A Spanish Count with two escorts rides through deserted foothills towards a mysterious Inn. All around the Count are clues, pieces of stories that will later be told. He leaves his two escorts beside a gallows where two men hang dead and rides to the Inn. The Inn is built into the face of a cliff and within its recesses is a cave to rival Ali Babas. In the cave are two lovely Muslim sisters who seduce the Count and feed him wine from a skull...the textual games get more and more complicated. Each new character met tells his tale to the Count and though the Counts goal is to return home he is sidetracked time and again by ever more elaborate tales and locations. The characters met are all archetypal Spaniards and all fabulists. They are intoxicating characters all of them and intoxicating storytellers. It is an absolute pleasure to surrender to the heady spell of being told tale after tale by such characters. Its a world one never wants to leave--sophisticated and complex and mysterious, sometimes funny, sometimes haunting. If you already like Polish cinema you will recognize all of its stars from the 1960's here including Zbigniew Cybulski(Ashes and Diamonds)who plays the Count. And if you like surrealism and classic as well as modern literature you will thoroughly enjoy the way this story blends the classic and the ultra modern and the way it is illustrated like a book with the most amazing etchings and engravings. A real book and art and film lovers masterpiece."
An unexpected gem
Doug Anderson | 03/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The best reason to hunt around Amazon's mechanism of suggestions and consumer referrals is the hope of chancing upon some little treasure that eluded critical mass on initial release. Saragossa Manuscript is a wonderful movie of unique personality; the closest comparison that comes to mind would be if Fritz Lang had ever made a version of Dangerous Liaisons. It sports an impressive list of supporters and admirers. Not as mystically mindblowing as its advertisement suggests, it is certainly nonlinear and somewhat surrealistic in a gently poetic manner, which is a hell of an accomplishment."
Margaret Dybala | Pearland, Texas United States | 01/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just finished the 3 hours that it takes to see this movie. It was an incredible experience. I have rarely seen a story so convoluted -- so made up of stories within stories. . .
In the middle of a battle in Spain during the Napoleonic wars, two soldiers from opposite sides are suddenly entranced by a manuscript. They sit together like brothers, and begin to read the story of a captain of the Waloon Guards trying to cross the mountains into Spain -- over and over again, he has experiences with two ghosts? demons? whatever? in the form of two beautiful women who express love for him. Over and over, he wakes up under a gallows with corpses. Very creepy. As he tries to get over the high pass for the next few days, we experience with him the stories he tells, along with the stories of people he meets, and stories of people within those stories, and stories of people within the stories of the people who are within the stories . . . . oh forget all that. This is one movie that just has to be seen to be believed. It is well worth the 3 hours. It is hard to explain how a movie can be frightening, funny, mysterious, etc, all at the same time. So just see it! ADDENDUM - one week later: I should mention that for two nights after I saw this, I had terrible nightmares. Then, a few nights ago, my husband finally saw the movie, and had the first terrifying nightmare of his life (in his dream, he woke up under the gallows where the hero is often awakening in this film). So, those of you who are familiar with the story will understand just how disconcerting that may be -- given the role of dreams within this movie. So, I wanted to add that you should only see this movie if you can handle that it attaches itself to some deep architypes, and may have distressing effects!"
GENIOUS MOVIE that is severely underated by critics
Luke Hettel | Chicago , IL. (shy-town!) | 03/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I havent seen this video persay, but even better I saw the movie at the castro street theatre in San Francisco about a 2 years ago. This movie amazed me from beginning to end. This movie was made in 1965, after being shown in San Francisco for a while, it went into non existance for 25 years. It then was found and put back together and restored by many including the great Jerry Garcia. Jerry was a huge fan of this movie, he loved the endless intrigueing takes on life ,the cosmos, and time. Now, after the showing in like 1997 or 98, I have no idea if its still being shown or where. I believe the only way to see this movie now is through DVD and VHS. Because of this, I highly recommend this title to own, even though it is 50 bucks. Its long and extremely interesting. Its in black and white, it has a great soundtrack of sound effects and noises. It starts with a man from the army in some european country and his horse. Riding to Spain. The lighting, casting, sounds props, everything! in this film are simply perfect and mystifying. He reaches this building in the country, what he finds inside fuels the rich and ponderous story of several dozen people. As the story continues, and continues, and continues, digressing more and more until you really dont quite know whats going on but it doesnt matter in the least, because you dont really care! There is also tremendous humor throughout that will add to the entertainment greatly. Anyone who enjoys an interesting black and white film and can be entertained by strange landscapes, philosophical ponderings, brilliant humor and beutiful people, check this out. Its also not available in any video stores I've seen. I doubt any place has it. It only got 2 1/2 stars in the movie book I have, I have to completely disagree. Its up there on my list with 4 stars, but there are films better than this in existance so I can't put 5 stars, I would like to though.So there you go, its the best I could do without seeing it for like 2-3 years, sorry it couldnt have been more detailed about the plot. BUY THIS MOVIE!"
A Film Like No Other
Jason R Blalack | Brick, NJ USA | 04/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having read the book twice , I was quite prepared for the journey of Alphonse Van Warden in the high mountains of Spain and the many characters that he encounters, but don't let that stop you from joining him on his wild and often perplexing journey. The film is as truthful to the book as can be expected (but alot had to be trimmed to even make this 3 hour cut), and much of the horror, mystery, confusion, and romance is still present. Unfortunately my favorite stories of the wandering Jew are absent, but you still have the stories of Don Toledo, Busqueros, The hermit, Pasheko, and so many others brought to life before your eyes.
The disc looks wonderful, video is in a stunning 2x1 black white anamorphic video taken from Wojciech Has' original and only complete print of the film. Some washing can be seen in the begining outdoor shots but this can also be from the original lighting. Burn marks are still evident for signifying the reel changes but this does not take away from the picture quality itself, little or no artifacting is present and some very minor and almost unnoticeable scratches in a few sequences. Overall a pretty darn good video presentation.
Sound is a Dolby Digital mono track in Polish - voices (especially the Gypsy chief) are much more robust if the subwoofer is turned up. There is also an isolated soundtrack also in Dolby Digital mono which is a mixture of the actual score and the many sounds that Krysysztof Pendericki (he also did the scores for the Shining and The Exorcist)used for an otherworldly feel in the film. English removeable subtitles are also present.
Rounding off extra features are filmographies and an extremly brief (8 or so) still gallery.
Overall a great deal for the money, especially for a film which had a limited release here in the states in the mid 60's and then disappeared until the late 90's only for another limited release. Do yourself a favor and see this film - you've never seen anything like it before and probably never will again. Words can't bring you into the full depth of the plot and its many convolutions, just sit back and enjoy the ride."