Here is a marvelously inventive and involving film about the fragmentation of self in a world of multiple role-playing. Written and directed by Chilean-born Raoul Ruiz, these four urban fairy tales — all starring Marcello Mastroianni — are magical examples of cinematic wizardry.

In the first, a traveling salesman, who left his wife (Marisa Paredes) years ago, returns to Paris and tells her new husband (Feodor Atkine) the bizarre reason for his long absence. In the second, a professor at the Sorbonne becomes a street vagabond. He is quite taken by a hooker (Anna Galiena) until he finds out that she's really a corporation president. In the third, a young couple (Chiara Mastroianni and Melvil Poupaud) are given a chateau by a mysterious man only to find out later that he's the butler who is slowly poisoning them. And in the fourth tale, we learn that a wealthy and powerful industrialist is also the traveling salesman, the Sorbonne professor, and the malevolent butler.

Three Lives and Only One Death shows how role-playing has savaged our traditional ideas about family, male and female relationships, generativeness, and love.