Arturo Ripstein

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anti-Semitism, exile, gender, prostitution
Film (feature film, melodrama)
America, Central
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May 27, 2003
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Arturo Ripstein
Arturo Ripstein © Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek e.V.


Extreme Melodrama

Arturo Ripstein, born 1943 in Mexico City, is regarded as the internationally most successful Mexican filmmaker. His first films were based on the literary works of major Latin American writers such as Marquez and Fuentes. Since the 1980s he has gained his biggest international successes and awards together with his wife Paz Alicia Garciadiego as screenwriter.
Born in 1943 in Mexico City Arturo Ripstein was the son of film producer Arturo Ripstein. Arturo Ripstein the younger is currently regarded as the most successful Mexican filmmaker and the only director considered worthy of treading in the footsteps of Luis Buñuel. The young Arturo began his career at 19 working on the set of "The Exterminating Angel" (1962) by Buñuel with home he began a lifelong friendship. He received no money for his work as assistant director and no mention in the credits - 35 years later he was to receive the Mexican "National Prize for the Arts", an prize only awarded once previously to a film director, namely Buñuel. Nowadays, when a film is produced in Mexico and it is connected with the name Ripstein, it is guaranteed to have a leading star cast, support on all levels and ample financing.

Benefitting from the early opportunity of working with one of the world´s greatest film directors, Arturo Ripstein made his first film in 1965, the western "Tiempo de morir" ("A Time to Die") based on the screenplay by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and dialogues by Carlos Fuentes. After this Ripstein adapted the literary works of several famous Latin American authors and committed them to film.

"El castillo de la pureza" was made in 1972 based on a book by Joss Emilio Pancheco. In this surrealistic parable Gabriel, a manufacturer of rat poison and insecticides, keeps his wife and two children captive for 18 years to prevent them from corruption by the outer world. While he punishes every little digression at home, when outside he himself eats the meat he forbids his family, goes to a prostitute and makes sexual advances to a young salesgirl. Step by step Arturo Ripstein reveals the bigoted behaviour of a closed family world. The rebellion of the adolescent children is ineffective, while the young saleswoman reports Gabriel to the police. He makes an abortive attempt to set fire to his house and ends up in jail. While serving his sentence Gabriel´s family waits for the return of the father.

In "El Santo Oficio" (The Holy Office), made in 1973 and again based on a work by Pancheco, the theme also focuses on claustrophobia, oppressive secrets and adopted (false) identities. The film centres on a Jewish family that has fled from the Spanish Inquisition to Mexico only to fall into the hands of the Inquisition there at the end of the 16th century.

In "El lugar sin límites" (Place without Limits) of 1977 Ripstein depicts the tragic story of a transvestite who lives in a brothel. The establishment is run by his daughter who resulted from the one heterosexual relationship he had in his life. Buñuel had already acquired the rights to the story which Ripstein adapted to form a cocktail of passion and frustration, ambition and revenge. "El lugar sin límites" took Ripstein back onto the road of Mexican melodrama which he has been amply exploring since the 1980s.

"Imperio de la fortuna" (The Realm of Fortune) emerged in 1985 to mark the beginning of the long-lasting successful co-operation between Ripstein and his wife Paz Alicia Garciadiego. Talking about their collaboration, Ripstein jokingly remarked that his Catholic wife introduced sin into the film scripts whilst he, as a Jew, contributed the guilt theme.

"Imperio de la fortuna" tells the story of Dionisio Pinzón who has a paralysed hand and in fact hardly expects anything from life at all. But he suddenly becomes rich from cock-fighting and betting, meets the beautiful Caponera and travels to the various markets with her. He unscrupulously exploits his power against the betters as well as against his wife. Despite the mismatch in the relationship, when Caponera dies Pinzón puts a bullet through his head. Ripstein relates the story in film noir style as a macabre journey into the hell of ambition and wantonness.

In "La reina de la noche" (Queen of the Night) of 1994 Arturo Ripstein takes the melodrama to the extreme. Ripstein and Garciadiego gather the ingredients from the biography of the legendary Mexican singer, Lucha Reyes. The film unites beauty and tragedy in a true story. Lucha Reyes, born in a brothel, has to perform there from an early age, sings "opera lirica" throughout the world, loses her voice only to enjoy a triumphant comeback as a mariachi singer. In numerous sequences the film shows Mexico between 1936 and 1944. While a world is disappearing in Europe and the New World has not yet really emerged in the USA, Mexico attracts deposed kings, revolutionary artists, exiled revolutionaries, snobs and nouveau riches. The nights are filled with raucous parties and orgies. This is the realm of the beautiful singer Lucha Reyes who tries to flee the difficult and painful relationship with her tyrannical mother. But Lucha cannot find any of the hold or consolation she needs. Nor can she find the peace she hoped for in her relationship with the impresario and playboy Pedro Caldedon, with whom she tries to simulate a ´normal family´. Calderon leaves her because of her morbid fits of jealousy. While the old world in Europe vanishes in an inferno, Lucha Reyes falls victim to her own inferno.

With "Profundo Camesí" (Deep Crimson) Ripstein and Garciadiego again concentrate on "l´amour fou" based on a true story that Leonard Kastle already filmed in 1969 under the title of "The Honeymoon Killers". In 1949 Mexico the young nurse Coral Fabre puts her two children into an orphanage so that she can live with the playboy Nicolás Estrella. She would also do the most unusual things for him because he resembles a French actor she idolizes. Ripstein transforms this constellation into a story without heroes, logic or happy end. He follows the fate of the psychopathic couple with an amazed but relentless eye.

"There is nothing like mad love: it shatters, corrupts, transforms. Nothing like mad love to break, tear down, and undo the house of social order. Nothing is more flippant, sacrilegious, or heretic. Nothing imore human.", (Yahoo, DVD Shopping: All Movie Guide) says Ripstein, summing up the dynamics that he detonates in this film. Ripstein and his wife won three awards at the Venice Film Festival for this film.

In 1999 "El coronel no tiene quien le escriba" (No One Writes to the Colonel) was nominated for the Golden Palm. The colonel waits while his old and sick wife repeatedly asks the same question: "When are we going to eat?" He waits for his pension that has been promised for years. Every Friday he waits for the letter announcing the payment. The whole village knows that the colonel is waiting in vain. The postman, his wife, everyone knows that nothing will arrive. But, dressed in his dignified suit, the colonel is unable to admit that he is deluding himself.

Like "Tiempo de morir", this film is based on a classic by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In contrast to "Profundo carmesi" and "La reina de la noche" which are literally dripping with emotion, Ripstein carefully describes the love of two elderly people in this film. The use of colour and light steep this love in a wonderfully melancholic atmosphere.

In the comedy "Le perdición de los hombres" (The Ruination of Men) of 2000 Ripstein changes the pace. The film wins the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival and is also awarded the critics´ prize, while Paz Alicia Garciadiego receives the best screenwriter´s award. The title is based on the Mexican saying "women are the ruin of men". In this black comedy variation the protagonist is destroyed by women and baseball. Two women fight over the corpse of the man they shared during his lifetime - with a surprising outcome.
Author: Ulrich Joßner


Arturo Ripstein was born on 13 December 1943 in Mexico City as son of the film producer Arturo Ripstein. Well-acquainted with the film world from an early age he decided to become a filmmaker. His film career began at 19 working as assistant director to Luis Buñuel on the classic "The Exterminating Angel" (1962). He made his own first film "Tiempo de morir" in 1965 based on the screenplay by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Carlos Fuentes. Following this Ripstein collaborated with a number of other important Latin American authors. Joss Emilio Pancheco provided the material for "El castillo de la pureza" (1972) and "El santo Officio" (1974) follwed by José Doloso with "El lugar sin límites" (1977), Vincente Leñero with "La tía Alexandra" (1978) and Luis Spota with "Cadena Perpetua" (1978).

In 1985 "Imperio de la fortuna" marked the beginning of Ripstein´s collaboration with his wife Paz Alicia Garciadiego who wrote the screenplay after a novel by Juan Rulfos. In combination with his wife Ripstein achieved his greatest successes. "Principio y fin" (1994), based on a novel by their friend Nagib Mahfouz won the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Their "La Reina de la noche" of the same year was nominated for the Golden Palm in Cannes. In 1996 "Profundo Carmesí" won several awards in Venice, including the prize for the best screenplay. In 1997 Arturo Ripstein was awarded the Mexican "National Prize for the Arts", an honour bestowed only one filmmaker before - Luis Buñuel.

His film "El evangelio de las maravillas" (1996) was also shown in Cannes where "El coronel no tiene quien le escriba" (1999), based on a novel by García Márquez was later nominated for the Golden Palm. "La perdicion de los hombres" (The Ruination Of Men) received the Golden Shell as best film at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Ripstein´s wife Paz Alicia Garciadiego received the prize for the best screenplay. And "Así es la vida" (Such Is Life), the couple´s most recent film won the jury´s special prize and the critics´ prize at the Havana Film Festival in the year 2000.


La virgen de la lujuria

Film / TV,

Le perdición de los hombres/The Ruination Of Men

Film / TV,

Asi es la vida/Such Is Life

Film / TV,

El coronel no tiene quien le escriba/No One Writes To The Colonel

Film / TV,

El evangelio de las maravillas/Divine

Film / TV,

Profundo carmesí/Deep Crimson

Film / TV,

La reina de la noche/The Queen of the Night

Film / TV,

Principio y fin/The Beginning and the End

Film / TV,

La mujer del puerto/Woman of the Port

Film / TV,

Mentiras piadosas/White Lies

Film / TV,

El imperio de la fortuna/Aunt Alexandra

Film / TV,

Cadena perpetua

Film / TV,

El lugar sin límites/Hell has no Limits

Film / TV,

Lecumberri, el palacio negro

Film / TV,

El santo oficio/The Holy Office

Film / TV,

El castillo de la pureza/Castle of Purity

Film / TV,

La hora de los niños/Children´s Hour

Film / TV,

Tiempo de morir/A Time to Die

Published Written,


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

The Mexico-festival in Berlin

(15 September 02 - 01 December 02)