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August 23, 2005

Fugitive Lovers Double Feature

Burnt Money
Plata Quemada
Marcelo Pineyro - 2000
Strand DVD

Wanda
Barbara Loden - 1971
MK2 France Region 2 DVD

I haven't read Edward Anderson's novel, Thieves Like Us. Written in 1937, and officially filmed twice, by Nicholas Ray and Robert Altman, the story seems to be the literary template for films about criminal lovers on the run from the law. Anderson's real life inspiration, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow have of course inspired not only biographical, if not truthful, films, but also have served as a model couple for other films. The two films can be viewed as reworkings of the Bonnie and Clyde story.

Burnt Money is based on a true story that took place in Argentina and Uruguay in 1965. Nene and Angel are a gay couple, together known as "The Twins". They participate in a botched payroll robbery and escape to Uruguay. The majority of the film is about the pair hiding out in Uraguay with the other gang members, biding their time until they can escape to a county where they can avoid extradition. During the extended period of hiding, Angel decides he no longer wants sexual activity with Nene. When the fugitives are allowed limited time in the streets, Nene has clandestine relationships with men and one woman, Giselle. The ending of the film seems inevitable, with the lovers trapped by the law, guns blazing until the last possible moment.

The director, Marcelo Pineyro, was also the producer of the film The Official Story (1985). This is a very moving film about the unanticipated impact of the military junta on a well-to-do Argentinian couple. Burnt Money has been Pineryro's only film to have wide international distribution. Noted in imdb.com is that he has made two films so far that have been Argentina's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Eduardo Noriega, the actor who plays Angel, has worked with some of the best Spanish language filmmakers like Amenabar (Open Your Eyes) and Del Toro (The Devil's Backbone). For those who haven't seen it, I would also strongly recommend the romantic and fatalistic The Yellow Fountain.

Wanda is one of those films where the story behind the film is, at least for me, more interesting than the film. There is a very lengthy analysis about Wanda and Loden at Senses of Cinema. I have to assume that Loden saw her screen character as a version of herself had she not moved to New York City. Both the real life relationship with Elia Kazan and the relationships with men in the film are abusive. The screen character may be realistic and indicates that she is doesn't seem to learn from her past actions, essentially being a willing victim. Not only is the character of Wanda not very sympathetic, but she is also not particularly interesting.

What is interesting to me is that as volatile as Loden's relationship with Kazan may have been, Wanda may have influenced Kazan as a filmmaker. Pretty much forced into retirement following the box office and critical failure of his film The Arrangement (1969), Kazan worked outside of the Hollywood system in 1972 with his film The Visitors. Photographed by Nicholas Proferes, again doubling as cinematographer and editor as with Wanda, The Visitors is a much less polished film than any of Kazan's other films, even America, America. In retrospect, Loden and Kazan provide an interesting intersection in film history where the younger artist was a pioneer of independent film, providing a new sylistic path for the established artist.

Posted by peter at August 23, 2005 06:10 PM