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On Top of the Whale

The most minimalist of Ruiz's extended fictions, this is a linguistic fantasy set - supposedly - in the depths of Patagonia, although the action is quite patently shot in a non-descript house in Holland. Some time in a barely recognisable future, two Dutch anthropologists visit a mysterious socialist millionaire on an island where only two members remain of a legendary tribe. As the action unfolds, so does the Indians' strange, paradoxically limited language. One of Ruiz' most Babel-like fictions, hopping from language to language almost arbitrarily, it's also among his richest in visual terms. Not altogether convincing as the disquisition on colonialism that it's been seen as, it's more a scrambled shaggy dog story, but austere with it. (Apparently it's Jim Jarmusch's third favourite film ever; make of that what you will.) JRo.

Release details

Duration: 90 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Raúl Ruiz
Screenwriter: Raúl Ruiz, Roland Kay
Cast: Willeke van Ammelrooy
Jean Badin
Fernando Bordeu
Herbert Curiel
Amber De Grauw
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