Friday, August 17, 2012


Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983) - Ruiz
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A sailor (Jean-Bernard Guillard) promises his job to a fresh faced student who just murdered his employer for no good reason and needs to escape. All he wants in return is three Dutch crowns (croners?) and have his story listened to. Ruiz's take on Ship of the Dead is a nasty riddle. His play on the nature of narrative 'storytelling' is not meant to be satisfying- episodic stories within stories within stories never pan out. Rather, they go around in circles then change directions at a moment's notice. His typical visual style- wide lens, no depth of field trickery adds to our confusion and its dreamlike imagery and colors are constantly dazzling (Shot by Sacha Vierny of The Last Year at Marienbad and many of Peter Greenaway films). After a while you give in, and have his symbolic images wash over you, wondering how it will all end. Not as mesmerizing as City of Pirates, but Ruiz's filmography is definitely something I can see myself getting into.


In a Year of 13 Moons (1978) - Fassbinder
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It's Fassbinder's version of Will O' the Wisp. Only in his version, the alchoholic protagonist is a fat, pathetic tranny Erwin/Elvira (Volker Spengler). She is first seen being verbally abused by her not around much anymore live-in boyfriend Christophe. It is apparent that his love for her is long gone and the same scene has played out many times before. We follow her for the final few days of her life as she encounters the assortment of people from her past and strangers whom she engages in philosophical conversations about life and death. Elvira's back story (all told breathlessly by others) is as dramatic as it gets - a boy who was abandoned at an early age and grew up in an orphanage ran by nuns where he learned to lie to please affection-hungry nuns. After he learned that there was no chance for him to get adapted, he became a sullen young man. While working for a butcher, he married a butcher's daughter and had a daughter with her. But after an offhand remark of a handsome meat market runner (now a ruthless industrialist Anton Saitz, played by young Gottfried John), that he would love Erwin back if he were a woman, Erwin flew to Casablanca and had a sex change operation and became Elvira.

In a Year of 13 Moons is filled with long monologue, absurd humor, spurts of raw emotions, many elegant visuals and lots of nutty characters. Spengler shines as a tragic heroine who made some grave mistakes in search of love and forced to live with the consequences. Not sure I want to try any more Fassbinder, but 13 Moons is an interesting, if not exhausting experience.