The Saragossa Manuscript

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The Saragossa Manuscript

You can call Polish director Wojciech Has’s adaptation of Count Jan Potocki’s novel the cinema’s greatest Russian doll, the ne plus ultra of ’60s art-house head flicks or simply plumb loco; each description fits this mammoth movie like a velvet glove. Regardless, Has’s supernatural tales of bourgeois muckymucks and black-magic women are an experience that will permanently rewire your circuitry. Once a military officer (Cybulski) cracks the spine of the titular book, all attempt at a linear narrative or frontal-lobe logic go out the window. Any given story features characters suddenly recounting bawdy anecdotes that vividly come to life, which digress into family histories that morph into brown-acid fever dreams; viewers may need a compass and a scorecard to keep up.

That The Saragossa Manuscript’s surreal, stream-of-consciousness style resonated with Haight-Ashbury luminaries like Jerry Garcia isn’t surprising. Anyone who thinks that a noggin full of hallucinogens is necessary to appreciate the film, however, is off the mark. The director’s eye for baroque black-and-white imagery puts him behind only Bava and Welles, while the film’s sharp social satire gives heft to its ambition. The jabs at a soul-sick Europe bring the heavy; the rest provides a more-than-ample amount of the far-out.

By: David Fear

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Release details

Rated: NR
Release date: Tuesday February 9 1965
Duration: 182 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Wojciech Has
Screenwriter: Tadeusz Kwiatkowski
Cast: Zbigniew Cybulski
Kazimierz Opalinski
Iga Cembrzynska
Joanna Jedryka
Franciszek Pieczka
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