review for Time Regained on AllMovie

Time Regained (1999)
by Keith Phipps review

As Time Regained rolled out to theaters, two schools of thought emerged, one arguing that it would be best enjoyed by those with no knowledge of Marcel Proust the other holding that only Proust scholars could possibly appreciate it. Chances are that Proust scholars will find in it only a different variety of inscrutability than neophytes. There's really no translating Proust, and if there were, most would not do so by jumping into the final volume of Remembrance of Things Past, but with Time Regained, director Raúl Ruiz turns just about every disadvantage to his favor. Structured, more or less, as the thoughts of a dying Proust as he attempts to finish the final volume of his magnum opus, the film takes on the quality of a dream, or, more appropriately, an imperfect memory. If sorting out the characters in terms of Proust's work requires prior knowledge, sorting them out in terms of the structure of the film does not. What each means to the film's protagonist is made as clear as it needs to be. Ruiz sustains the dreamlike tone through surreal asides and striking cinematography (courtesy of Ricardo Aronovich) and by continually undermining viewers' sense of time. In the process, he gets at some Proustian notions in a way a more conventional film could not, particularly the sense of "extra-temporality" created by memory and the notion that some events have more significance as memory or as art than they do in themselves, if it's even possible to talk about events in themselves. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, and the actor dubbing John Malkovich's voice gets no points for authenticity, but as a singular cinematic experience, Time Regained offers quite a bit in return for patience.