Saturday, September 28, 2013

904. Trois vies & une seule mort/Three Lives and Only One Death (1996)

Running Time: 120 minutes
Directed By: Raul Ruiz
Written By: Pascal Bonitzer, Raul Ruiz
Main Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Galiena, Marisa Paredes, Melvil Poupaud, Chiara Mastroianni


So as I've skipped around, watching movies about talking pigs ("Clueless") and the one with James Cromwell ("Babe"), I've realized that I've actually been putting this one off. I'm not really sure why, but I just had a bad hunch that "Three Lives and Only One Death" would be something that I should dread. Were my suspicions validated?

To detail the plot of TLAOOD, it would take four separate plot synopsis' and since I'm a good, little plot detail man, I'll give you just that. Needless to say, the film is split into four separate pieces, with each piece starring Marcello Mastroianni...

1) The first piece involves Mateo Strano (Mastroianni) bumping into a man at a cigarette stand and offering him 1,000 francs in exchange for one hour of the man's time. Within the one hour, Strano tells the man things that about the man that no one else could know and ultimately tells him that he (Strano) used to be married to the man's wife. He goes on to tell him that he's currently renting an apartment, an odd apartment. One morning, when he awoke from his slumber, he found that he'd been sleeping for twenty years. He blames the heavy rest on fairies, citing that they've taken his time away from him. He then asks the man to return home with him, so that he can show him the apartment. The man returns to his place and Strano then asks him if he'll stay there, while Strano returns home to his wife. When the man refuses, Strano hits him in the head with a hammer and leaves him there. Strano then returns home to a wife that has seemingly been expecting him the whole time.

2) The second piece involves a millionaire named Georges Vickers (Mastroianni), who one day decides that he wants to be a beggar. He gives up teaching at the Sorbonne and takes to placing his hat beside him on a park bench and asking passersby to throw coins into it. Later on, he meets a prostitute and the two become friends, but after a while, Vickers returns to teaching.

3) Next we have a young couple who are madly in love, Cecile and Martin. One day the couple, living in their tiny, cramped apartment, find an envelope in their mailbox with a large sum of money. The envelope arrives every Monday, with the same amount of money. Besides the money, one day when Martin goes to work, Cecile cheats on him with a neighbor. She tells Martin promptly and he forgives her just as promptly. Later, Martin cheats on Cecile, apologizes and is forgiven, as if nothing had happened. Then the money stops arriving and they learn that the man who's been leaving the envelopes has died, but left them in his will. They are willed a mansion, which comes with a butler that they cannot fire, or else they forfeit their inheritance. They name the butler Bell (Mastroianni), for he only comes at the ring of a bell.

4) The final part, sort of ties all the previous parts together and again stars Mastroianni. End of story.

It's worth nothing that there's also a bunch of similarities between the four stories, recurring characters (besides Mastroianni), recurring set pieces (goldfish bowls, snakes, etc.) and other recurring themes (loss of time, changes in social status, love, marriage, infidelity, etc.).

I sincerely just do not know what to say about this one. It was along the lines of something you'd see directed by Luis Bunuel, a piece that peeks your interest, yet leaves you with a "WTF" look on your face and at the forefront of your mind. I was totally turned off when the film started. The story about magic fairies and a man sleeping for twenty years didn't do a thing to entice me and at this point, I didn't know the film would be segmented into fours and I didn't want to sit through two hours of a fairy story. Then that piece ended and the story about the millionaire who wanted to be a beggar started and I dug that. It was a fun little story, perhaps something you'd see in Woody Allen's idea drawer (I've heard he actually has one of those). The third story was the best of all and again, the tiny, decrepit, yet cozy apartment, where the young lovers lived was something you'd find in Woody Allen's world, yet with a surreal twist. I could've watched an entire movie with the characters from episode three. Episode four sort of lost me again and ultimately the whole film left me with that taste you get when you sip a flat Pepsi - you still get some flavor, but ultimately you're left with a cringe.

I don't wanna crap on the film, not at all. I'm fully prepared to take blame for anything I didn't like and say that, perhaps, I was a bit confused by it all. The thing is, is that I didn't hate it by any means, it's just that, perhaps, I expected a little more once the ball got rolling. Episide two surprised me in that it was really good and things got so much better in Act three, that my hopes got a little too high, perhaps. Really, it's one of those films that could go for another look, maybe even three looks to get everything that's thrown at you and fully piece together the puzzle. As it is, call it a definite experience at the movies and something that I won't soon forget, which is always a plus.

RATING: 6.5/10  Not too shabby and definitely had my interest peaked to the max. A bit more explanation, a little more pop and intrigue and this COULD HAVE been gold. As it is, call it just north of *meh*.


September 28, 2013  11:03pm


  1. hey nice post meh, I love your style of blogging here. this blog reminds me of an equally interesting blog on my reading list which is .
    keep up the good work meh and also, please visit my blog and drop a comment even if it's a simple "nice post" reply.


  2. Hey, thanks for swinging by. Much appreciated!

  3. I had a lot of fun with this film. It started off fairly normal, then got confusing, but as the stories starting coming together I really got into it. I feel like I need to see it again to really understand it, though.

    1. Yeah, a rewatch for me probably wouldn't hurt either. It definitely had it's moments.


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