Combustible Celluloid
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With: Volker Spengler, Ingrid Caven, Gottfried John, Elisabeth Trissenaar, Eva Mattes, Günther Kaufmann, Lilo Pempeit, Isolde Barth, Karl Scheydt, Walter Bockmayer, Peter Kollek
Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: German with English subtiles
Running Time: 124
Date: 11/17/1978

In a Year with 13 Moons (1978)

3 Stars (out of 4)

When a Man Loves a Woman

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In a Year with 13 Moons is one bizarre film, even for Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Made just after Fassbinder's lover committed suicide in real life, In a Year with 13 Moons manages to cohere its pain into intellectual and emotional compartments. Elvira (Volker Spengler) is a former man who flew to Casablanca and returned as a woman -- all because a former boyfriend, Anton Saitz (Gottfried John), joked, "too bad you're not a girl." The film tells Elvira's entire sad life story, but in disjointed chunks. In several sequences, characters speak long passages of dialogue while unconnected visuals pass by. (One such scene takes place in a slaughterhouse as Elvira tells her story to a prostitute friend). Other sequences are more elusive, such as one in which Elvira witnesses a man hanging himself, but not before the man helps open her bottle of wine. A peculiar party scene comes underscored with a shrieking soundtrack of recorded screams while one man talks incessantly and another quietly pumps iron. Strangely enough, Fassbinder manages to make all this stuff gel. He decries fascism in the form of Anton's character and pays tribute to his fallen lover at the same time, with proper emphasis on both emotional need and intellectual respect. Fassbinder literally made most of the film himself, controlling the writing, directing, art design, editing and camerawork.

DVD Details: Fantoma's beautiful new DVD comes with an introduction by Richard Linklater (Before Sunset) who counts the film as one of his personal favorites, as well as other interviews and a sporadic commentary track by film editor Juliane Lorenz. Robert Kolker contributes a liner notes essay.

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