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aka - In Einem Jahr Mit 13 Monden
Germany 1978
Directed by
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
124 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

In A Year With 13 Moons

Apparently the guilt Fassbinder felt after the suicide of his lover, Armin Meier, in 1978 death informed In A Year Of 13 Moons, the story of a transsexual, Elvira Weishaupt (Volker Spengler), struggling to cope with a humiliating break-up and failing miserably.

Fassbinder gives the story a, for him, characteristically melodrama treatment which serves to give it a more allegorical feel which the director pushes even further with what in terms of conventional narrative film would be considered extraneous material such as an extended scene in an abattoir in which we see at length cows being slaughtered.  Added to this a man hangs himself and, at the height of Elvira’s misery when she goes to confront her former lover, Fassbinder throws in a musical number in which they imitate a scene from a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis film that is playing on a television. In between Elvira befriends a prostitute (Ingrid Caven) who takes her to an orphanage where a young Erwin was raised by a group of nuns where Sister Gudrun (Lilo Pempeit, Fassbinder's mother) explains his history and he passes out.

All Fassbinder’s usual concerns are here: sexual aberration, the evils of Moloch; the disruptive individual against the social conformist, the play of representation, the tragedy of existence and so on, typically enough, wedged rather than integrated into the unfolding of the central narrative according to his personal whims (after Erwin/Elvira collapses, for instance there is an extended sequence involving news reports including the indictment of Pinochet and Fassbinder himself being interviewed).

Fassbinder has his champions and as it is precisely this fervently autobiographical and personally political aspect which appeals to them this film will be one over which they will enthuse. I could not and instead wondered how Pedro Almódovar would have handled this material which content-wise resembles closely his early films..

DVD Extras: A feature-length documentary on Fassbinder, I Don’t Just Want You To Love Me; audio commentary by Ross Gibson, Professor of Media Arts, University. Of Technology, Sydney; The Roots of the Wounds, an interview with Julian Lorenz; Love & Despair, an interview with Fassbinder.

Available from Madman as part of a 3 disc release Fassbinder On Sex, that also includes The Bitter Tears Of Petra von Kant and Fox And His Friends.

Available from: Madman




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