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Three Lives and Only One Death

Three Lives and Only One Death

Three Lives and Only One Death is a 1996 French film directed by Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz. It was entered into the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, and was the penultimate film to star Marcello Mastroianni, before his death in 1996.

Plot

Pierre Bellemare, a French radio personality appears to recount four strange, seemingly non-coexisting, tales that make up the complex narrative structure of Three Lives and Only One Death. In the first tale we are introduced to Andre Parisi, a family man who has woken up with a terrible headache. Andre leaves to a local cafe where he meets one of the multiple enigmatic central characters, Matteo Strano (Marcello Mastroianni). Matteo offers Andre champagne and 1000 francs to listen to his story. Prior to the scene of Matteo's own storytelling, he reveals he was once married to Andre's wife. Matteo recounts the day he went out, on a whim, and rented out an apartment. Matteo insists this apartment is inhabited by fairies who eat time and who ultimately devoured 20 years of his life in one night. Matteo uses the story of his “strange journey in time” to entice Andre into going to his “fairy house.” Andre accepts Matteo's request and is surprised to find that the apartment actually exists. Matteo takes Andre's fondness for the apartment as an acceptance of a deal that allows Matteo to go home, leaving Andre to remain in the bewitched apartment. When Andre refuses to take Matteo's place “he finds himself with a hammer in his head, thus retrospectively explaining his headache as a premonition.” After a 20-year hiatus Matteo returns to his former home and his former wife, Maria, as if nothing had changed.