Arturo Ripstein - Director

Nationality: Mexican. Born: Mexico City, 1943. Family: Son of Alfredo Ripstein, one of Mexico's most accomplished producers, credited with more than 180 films. Career: Began directorial career at the age of twenty-one, with the debut of A Time to Die (screenplay by Gabriel García Márquez, adapted from his own short story). Awards: Golden Ariel, Academy Awards, Mexico, for Castillo de la pureza , 1973; Golden Ariel, Academy Awards, Mexico, for El Lugar sin límites , 1978; Golden Ariel, Academy Awards, Mexico, for Cadena perpetua , 1979; Golden Ariel, Academy Awards, Mexico, for El Imperio de la fortuna , 1987; Grand prize, San Sebastian Film Festival, 1993, for The Beginning and the End; Golden Ariel, Academy Awards, Mexico, for Principio y fin , 1994; Latin America Cinema Award, Sundance Film Festival, for El Cornel no tiene quien le escriba , 2000.

Arturo Ripstein
Arturo Ripstein

Films as Director:


Tiempo de Morir ( A Time to Die )




Los Recuerdos del Porvenir


La Hora de los Niños


El Naufrago de la Calle de la Providencia (co-d with Rafael Castanedo)


Autobiografia (+ sc, pr)


El Castillo de la Pureza ( The Castle of Purity ) (+ sc)


El Santo Oficio ( The Holy Office ) (+ sc)


Foxtrot (+ sc)


Lecumberri (+ sc)


El Lugar sin lĂ­mites ( The Place without Limits ; Hell without Limits ); La Viuda negra ( The Black Widow )


Cadena Perpetua ( Vicious Circle ) (+ sc)


La Ilegal ; TĂ­a Alejandra


La Tia Alexandra


Rastro de muerte


La SeducciĂłn ; Rastro de la Muerte


El Otro ( The Other )


El Imperio de la Fortuna ( In the Realm of Fortune )


Mentiras Piadosos ( White Lies )


La Mujer del Puerto ( Woman of the Port )


Principio y fin ( The Beginning and the End )


La Reina de la Noche ( The Queen of the Night )


La Sonrisa del Diablo (series for TV); Profundo carmesĂ­ ( Deep Crimson )


El Evangelio de las Maravillas ( Divine )


El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba ( No One Writes to the Colonel )


La PerdiciĂłn de los Hombres ; AsĂ­ es la vida ( Such is Life )


By RIPSTEIN: articles—

Interview with N. Ghali, in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), April 1975.

"El cine de Ripstein," an interview with Alejandro Ricagno and Eduardo Antin, in El Amante Cine , December 1996.

Interview with G. Del Toro, in Village Voice (New York), 21 October 1997.

On RIPSTEIN: book—

Ramirez Berg, Charles, Cinema of Solitude: A Critical Study of Mexican Film , 1967–1983 , Austin, 1992.

On RIPSTEIN: articles—

Cornand, A., " Le Chateau de la purete ," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), 1974.

Pick, Z. M., "Decouverted'un autre Cinema Mexicain," in Positif (Paris), no. 157, 1974.

Lajeunesse, J., " Le saint Office ," in Revue de Cinéma (Paris), October 1974.

Hobermen, J., "Film: Hostage to Fortune," in Village Voice (New York), 24 March 1987.

Greenbaum, R., "New Directors, New Films—1987 (Part 2)," in Films in Reviews (New York), December 1987.

Vega Alfaro, E. de la, "Fichero de Cineastas Nacionales," in Dicine (Mexico City), November/December 1987.

Berg, C. R., "Cracks in the Macho Monolith: Machismo, Man, and Mexico in Recent Mexican Cinema," in New Orleans Review , no. 16, 1989.

Brandlmeier, T., "Muenchen: Ripstein und Andere," in EPD Film (Postfach, Germany), August 1989.

Orejel, A., " Mentiras Piadosas ," in Dicine (Mexico City), January 1990.

Carro, N. "Cineastas y Testimonios del Cine Mexicano," in Dicine (Mexico City), September 1990.

Uhlig, M. A., "Mexico's Film Industry Looks for a Breakthrough," in New York Times , 22 January 1991.

Loffreda, P., " La Mujer del Puerto ," in Cineforum (Bergamo, Italy), June 1991.

Rauger, Jean-Françis, "Arturo Ripstein: les origines de la fatalité," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1994.

Paranagua, Paulo Antonio, and Hubert Niogret, in Positif (Paris), April 1994.

Berthomieu, Pierre, Paulo Antonio Paranagua, and Hubert Niogret, in Positif (Paris), April 1995.

Cox, Alex, and Richard Pena, "Roads to the South," in Film Comment (New York), November-December 1995.

Jeancolas, Jean-Pierre, and Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), March 1997.

* * *

With more than twenty directorial works that span almost thirty years, Arturo Ripstein is one of the best-known Mexican directors whose fame reaches beyond the international film festival circuit. Son of one of Mexico's most accomplished film producers, Ripstein literally grew up on the backlots of studios. He was not only able to observe the techniques of some master filmmakers, such as Luis Buñuel and Emilio Fernández, but was also taken on as an assistant director by the former. With such a filmmaking background since adolescence, Ripstein made his directorial debut, A Time to Die , at the age of twenty-one.

A Time to Die features a Gabriel García Márquez screenplay adapted from his own short story. Following this came a series of collaborations with other Latin American talents, such as Carlos Fuentes, Manuel Puig, José Donoso, Juan Rulfo, Elena Garros, Julio Alejandro, José Emilio Pacheco, Vincete Leñero, and Silvina Ocampo. As such closeness with literary works may suggest, Ripstein's films are often precise in their realism yet tacit as well as articulate in their aesthetic visions.

His 1985 In the Realm of Fortune depicts the rise and fall of an ambitious peasant in the world of gambling. As the hero, Dionsio, gradually ascends from slavish poverty into affluence, Ripstein captures "superbly the sleazy, smoke-drenched atmosphere of the world of cheap carnivals, opportunistic women, cock fights and nights-long card games," according to Richard Greenbaum. It is in this world that Ripstein sets out to paint a ghastly portrait of obsession, the downfall of a human being, and fate like a pendulum oscillating between the lucky and the luckless. By the end of the movie, Dionsio commits suicide after losing everything—his wife and his fortune—except for the ornate silver coffin he wishes to be buried in. As his young daughter, Bernardina, sings in a carnival (just like her mother did to find a husband) at the very end of the movie, one cannot help but wonder: if poverty is the eternal reality of the luckless and luck does not last, how does one transcend a world driven by materialism? The content is grim and the tonality dark. Deliverance, however, is not out of the question, for, through an understanding of material obsession as such, one needs not emphasize or identify with Dionsio to feel. In 1992, Ripstein started a project collaborating with yet another Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz, on his novel The Beginning and the End. A story originally written in the 1940s about the social collapse of a Cairo family due to the death of the father, it takes on a universal quality under the pen of Ripstein's longtime working companion, Paz Alicia Garcíadiego (who also wrote the screenplays for In the Realm of Fortune , White Lies , and Woman of the Port ). The parallels drawn between Cairo and Mexico City are uncanny. As Ripstein himself puts it, "Mexico City, an enormous urban center, noisy, dusty, like Cairo, is destroyed and reconstructed daily. . . . They are cities conquered by accelerated urban development, irrational modernization." In the filmmaker's vision, "the family is the guardian of retired values [and] is responsible that destiny is carried out." While the camera work almost renders a mythic texture, the soundtrack provides "a tragic breath," "an operatic tone." Recognized for its compelling treatment of a family story and rigorous artistic probing, The Beginning and the End was awarded the Grand Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1993.

Ripstein and GarcĂ­adiego's 1994 collaboration, The Queen of the Night , is an "imaginary biography of the sentimental life of Lucha Reyes." Set between 1939 and 1944, the famed folk singer's life is chronicled in all its intensity as a "descent into the hell of alcohol, sexual excess and jealousy," writes Jorge Rufinelli. Another puissant theme of neurotic obsession and self-destruction recalls not only Dionsio's lost battle with luck but also The Beginning and the End 's eerie picture of a domineering mother. Family as well as interpersonal relationships are articulated not in terms of inevitable sufferings per se , but rather, through the alluring singing of Reyes, in terms of an intensity closer to the overpowering force of life. Therefore, with Ripstein's incisive and sure hand, "melodramatic themes are filtered through a rigorous aesthetic vision, so that [in The Queen of the Night ] sentimentalism ends up becoming its opposite."

In his fourth decade of an outstanding filmmaking career, there is no reason not to anticipate more masterpieces from Arturo Ripstein. This must have been a painstaking lifelong process for the filmmaker. However, as Ripstein reminds us, "all art is painful. Pained by humanity."

—Guo-Juin Hong

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