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John Paul Getty III,
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While this film is related to the Robert Louis Stevenson book of the same title, it certainly doesn't resemble a traditional adaptation. The entire film is about the relationship between people and works of fiction. Treasure Island is the most important and notable of these works, but it isn't the only one. A substantial part of the plot is about a group of people who attempt to reenact Treasure Island each year; they get so caught up being their characters that they sometimes forget they are just acting and none of them seem surprised when the bodies start piling up.
We see all this through the eyes of Johnathan, a young man whose only education is the one he has gotten from voyeuristically observing the adults at the hotel his parents own. As a result of his spying, he tends to view everything as a detached, neutral observer. Indeed, he sometimes mixes up reality with the things he sees on TV or attempts to use his favorite show as a key to unlock the mysteries of the actions of those around him. With this character Ruiz manages to simultaneously suggest the sense of wonder and powerlessness that accompanies late childhood/early adolescence and the passive role of the viewer of a film/reader of a novel.
In some ways this film was rather similar to Ruiz's earlier City of Pirates. Some of the locations seem to be the same but more importantly Ruiz uses some of the same types of shots. In both films he tends to favor shots from below, sometimes even from ground level looking straight up at his characters. He also tends to place things in between the camera and the action which results in some interesting (and occasionally breathtaking) juxtapositions. As unusual and striking as these shots are, I felt that they lost some of their impact from frequent use. If I hadn't already seen City of Pirates this would probably not have been an issue. I also feel I should mention the many comic moments in this film, many of which arise as a result of the blending of the film's reality and the various fictions.
It's a bit hard for me to judge this film's quality at this stage; it isn't an easy film to follow and the transfer I saw of it was pretty rough. The film was in English for the most part but it was obvious that some of it was dubbed into English and some of it wasn't dubbed at all. Further, there was a loud, high pitched hiss present throughout about 90% of the film. Finally, the film had no English subs, only Spanish hard subs. One character was French and his lines weren't dubbed into English so I was only able to use my rudimentary Spanish skills to figure out the general gist of what he was saying. I would like to rewatch this film on a better print.
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