Martyr Load


Based on a 1965 crime spree that’s national legend in Argentina, Burnt Money is nonetheless as American as a pistol in the pantry. Marcelo Piñeyro’s film borrows Swoon‘s ill-matched, codependent pair of famous gay outlaws and tucks them into hothouse hideaways out of Reservoir Dogs, where the recirculated air grows oppressive with heat, boredom, and frustrated desire.

Brooding, mentally unstable Angel (Eduardo Noriega) and wry Nene (Leonardo Sbaraglia) hook up for a quickie in a Buenos Aires washroom and remain inseparable thereafter (the press later dubs them “the Twins”)—though the admonishing voices thronging Angel’s head issue prohibitions against much physical contact. The audience may be able to empathize with Angel’s plight, since the film itself is caked with voice-over directives—we’re actually told, for instance, what Angel and Nene look like at the very moment they’re in celestially lit close-up. Whereas Swoon‘s chilly, expressionist high glamour froze into existentialist horror (the shellac-gel in Leopold and Loeb’s hair glinting like a knife’s edge), Burnt Money arranges a triumphant martyrdom for its bad boys—a redemptive blaze of glory, dozens of faceless corpses notwithstanding.

Mother of all domestic martyrs, the protagonist in Penny Marshall’s Riding in Cars With Boys never hesitates to explain to the son she bore at age 15 that he ruined her life. Years of 3 a.m. feedings and squalling tantrums weren’t even necessary to draw the conclusion. Tough broad Bev (Drew Barrymore) actually pushes her newborn away when a nurse tells her the bairn isn’t the girl she’d hoped for. Based on Beverly Donofrio’s memoir, Marshall’s halting sob story strains for cry-till-you-laugh dark comedy: Vaguely sociopathic Bev dances clumsily for little Jason to distract him from his screaming father (Steve Zahn), who’s locked in the bedroom battling heroin withdrawal; acid-addled Bev chats tearily about how she’s not sure that she loves Jason, who then nearly drowns in the neighbor’s pool. That’s family! Meant as an edifying trip through the school of hard knocks, Riding in Cars With Boys mistakes self-pitying embitterment for carry-on endurance, and manages to have its causality both ways: You can, in fact, blame everything on your parents, but hey, they did the best they could.

As irrepressibly guileless as Bev is undauntedly irascible, Jabberwocky‘s Dennis Cooper (no relation to the author of Frisk) is so nice he offers his dying father his cap to puke in while Pop is in the midst of disowning him. Bereft of family and unrequited of love (scorned by his obese dreamgirl, Griselda Fishfinger) in grimiest medieval England, Dennis (everyone’s favorite Python, Michael Palin) journeys from his tiny village to the Big City to prove his good name, encountering hunger, filth, dismemberments, constipated guards, and a mysterious beast ravaging the countryside—the monster’s victims include director Terry Gilliam and yet another Monty conspirator, Terry Jones. The cinematography in Jabberwocky (first released in 1977 and now at Film Forum in a new print) is at times incongruously lovely—dusty beams of sunshine alighting on the slithy toves—but the film itself is thinly conceived, except in the area of bodily misfunction. It plays like the murky B side to the immortal Gilliam-Jones epic Monty Python and the Holy Grail.