House of mirrors

Ral Ruiz's stylish thriller gamely upends narrative conventions

More than anything Shattered Image recalls the completely insane and droll Desire and Hell at the Sunset Motel, directed by one Alien Castle, which sank like a stone back in 1992. (Go rent it. If nothing else, it's way different.) But where Desire and Hell pushed the amnesia-identity shtick to the point of farce, Ruiz, however playful, keeps Shattered Image closer to the realm of tragedy.

The final 10 minutes suggest a definitive, pat explanation for what has been going on. It may be an intriguing explanation, but it's unnecessary. In the long run is it really important just which world is real? I don't think so: The film is what it is; the images mean not a whit more than precisely what they are. To demand a resolution that connects Shattered Image's world to our own is to limit the experience. Like exposing the sleight of hand behind a magic trick, it ruins the magic forever.

Shattered Image.
Directed by Raul Ruiz. Written by Duane Poole. Starring Anne Parillaud, William Baldwin, Graham Greene, and Lisanne Falk. Opens Friday.

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