Suffice it to say that Chilean-born director/screenwriter Ruiz tackled a monumental assignment. Reducing Proust's lengthy magnum opus (Remembrance of Things Past), to a few hours of screen time would have been beyond the capabilities of most filmmakers. That he has succeeded so well is a great credit to him and to his creative crew.
The film is told in a series of flashbacks as Proust lies on his deathbed. The flashbacks are not sequential, so at points one has to pay attention to follow along. The rewards are numerous, however. This is one of the most beautifully filmed works that I've seen in ages. The director is particularly adept at pan-shots. The moving tableaux are breathtaking, like living impressionist paintings. This is particularly true in a scene of a music recital at a country chateau. The various figures are situated on moving platforms, so in addition to the moving camera pans, the platforms also slide slowly back and forth, which makes for a kaleidescopic montage unlike anything I've seen in cinema. Ruiz and cinematographer Jorge Arriagada are artists in the truest sense.
Ruiz also managed to collect a top notch cast for the enterprise. Marcello Mazzarella is elegantly stoic as Proust. He is the artistic, calm eye of the storm as the hurricane of WWI France swirls aound him. Emmanuelle B?art, is stunningly beautiful, as always. Catherine Deneuve is a perfectly cast Mme De Crecy, though her on screen time is relatively brief. John Malkovich's French sounds pretty fair to my untrained ear. He definitely has the juiciest role as a jaded, decadent Baron of the Boulevard. Pascal Greggory chews up some scenery, as well as a boefsteak, as the gung ho, effete warrior, St-Loup (well named, as the guy really is quite loopy).
The movie is slow going at times, which well befits an adaptation of Proust, who's not exactly known for his frenetic pacing. This is a film to savor with several repeated viewings. The DVD is an excellent transfer and the English subtitles are accurate and legible. Highly recommended.