Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In a Year with 13 Moons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978)

***½
Germany



With brutal commitment Volker Spengler plays Elvira Weishaupt, a transsexual with a mauled heart dissecting her past in search of the cause[s] behind her present state of [utter and harrowing] destitution.

To brand this Fassbinder's 'darkest' or 'most personal' would be an exaggeration, not to mention beside the point. But it is infused with a sense of purging and a despairing search for answers, which it is tempting to tie back to the then-recent suicide of Fassbinder's lover (the film was openly mounted as a coping mechanism).

1978 was otherwise no less busy than other years for Fassbinder - he had already delivered two features before this one was conceived and the film does bear the marks of a fast job, both positive and negative. The mad rush of invention and catharsis that comes from direct purging onto celluloid crystallises into sequences of galvanising force. But then there are others, particularly in the film's later sections, that don't really hold together, even if the concepts behind them are touching.

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