×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Ruination of Men

The world of Arturo Ripstein's films is a sordid place of tormented souls, shifting morality, violent acts, absurdity and wretchedness. That world is brought amusingly to life in "The Ruination of Men," an overlong but charmingly corrosive black comedy about two killers, their victim, two rival wives and a fatal baseball match.

With:
With: Patricia Reyes Spindola, Rafael Inclan, Luis Felipe Tovar, Carlos Chavez, Leticia Valenzuela, Alejandra Montoya, Eligio Melendez, Ernesto Yanez.

The world of Arturo Ripstein’s films is a sordid place of tormented souls, shifting morality, violent acts, absurdity and wretchedness. That world is brought amusingly to life in “The Ruination of Men,” an overlong but charmingly corrosive black comedy about two killers, their victim, two rival wives and a fatal baseball match. Expanded by the veteran Mexican director from a previously made short film, this eccentric curio is written in a richly enjoyable literary style and performed with effortless panache. Simply made and shot in black-and-white, it should represent a tasty nugget for fest programmers and a worthy challenge to specialized niche distributors.

Premiered in San Sebastian, the film won the Golden Shell for best film (Ripstein’s second after “Principio y fin” in 1993), the Fipresci international critics’ prize and, perhaps most deservedly, the jury award for best screenplay, penned by the director’s wife and regular collaborator, Paz Alicia Garciadiego.

Taking its title from a Mexican song about women as the undoing of men, the tale is divided into four long scenes and opens with a clumsily executed murder. The killers (Rafael Inclan, Luis Felipe Tovar) ambush their victim (Carlos Chavez) on a country road, brain him with a rock and then load him into his wheelbarrow to remove the body. Action then shifts to a run-down police station, where the bigamous victim’s wives air their long list of grievances against their dead husband.

After much bickering and lobbying for precedence based on the number and age of their children, the wives flip a coin for possession of the body. Having shared him in life, they refuse to share him in death, but the winner (redoubtable Ripstein regular Patricia Reyes Spindola) immediately feels duped by the other into covering the funeral costs.

Built around the embittered ranting of Reyes Spindola’s character, often using the woman’s Nintendo-fixated daughter as an indifferent sounding board, this section provides the most consistent pleasures of this drolly wicked comedy. It veers into sheer perverseness when the wife enlists one of her husband’s killers to help her transport the body back home. Recognizing her dear departed’s snakeskin boots on the man, she overpowers him with a baseball bat, reclaims the shoes and humiliates him into sucking her toes while her appalled daughter looks on.

Having set up the killing to appear motivated by the victim’s vanity and bigamy, Ripstein and Garciadiego then mischievously reveal the real reason as they backtrack to chronicle events earlier in the day of the murder, when the two killers and their victim played together on a too-frequently defeated baseball team. Ironic commentary on the action of this last act is supplied by the mellifluous voice of a radio broadcaster.

Set up in long takes, shot in an unfussy style with handheld camera and structured as a series of monologues or two-character dialogues, the film is driven more by its complex, playful text than anything else. Perhaps betraying its origins as a short, it feels overextended and is far more successful as a bizarre folk tale full of surprises than as a full-bodied cinematic work. But the bracing originality, the director’s self-effacing approach, the lazy verve of the cast and the anarchic absurdity of the humor — Ripstein acknowledges an evident debt to Luis Bunuel, who himself worked extensively in Mexico — make this a uniquely entertaining experience.

The Ruination of Men

Mexico - Spain

Production: A Filmania, Gardenia Producciones (Mexico)/Canal Plus Espana, Wanda Vision (Spain) production with participation of TVE Television Espanola, Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia. Produced by Laura Imperiale, Jorge Sanchez. Co-producers, Jose Maria Morales, Ramon Salgado. Directed by Arturo Ripstein. Screenplay, Paz Alicia Garciadiego.

Crew: Camera (B&W), Esteban de Llaca, Guillermo Granillo; editor, Carlos Puente; music, Leoncio Lara "Bon"; art director, Claudio "Pache" Contreras; sound (Dolby), Andres Franco. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 27, 2000. Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Patricia Reyes Spindola, Rafael Inclan, Luis Felipe Tovar, Carlos Chavez, Leticia Valenzuela, Alejandra Montoya, Eligio Melendez, Ernesto Yanez.

More Film

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab

    TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab (EXCLUSIVE)

    The TorinoFilmLab has announced the 20 feature projects and five story editor trainees who have been selected to take part in the 2019 edition of ScriptLab, an initiative focused on the development of fiction feature film scripts in early development stage. Beginning in March, this year’s participants will team up with filmmakers from around the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    North American Box Office Declines From Last Year With Weak Presidents Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” easily won a tepid Presidents Day weekend with a $34.2 million at 3,790 North American locations, estimates showed Monday. Overall domestic moviegoing for 2019 has plunged 22.1% to $1.24 billion as of Monday, according to Comscore. That’s $350 million below the same date a year ago and the lowest figure at this [...]

  • Queen + Adam Lambert perform at

    Queen to Perform at Oscars

    Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury. The band now performs under the [...]

  • Richard E. Grant Variety Facetime Interview

    Richard E. Grant on How to Survive Awards Season With Flair

    An Oscar would certainly be nice, but Richard E. Grant doesn’t need a golden statue to walk away from this awards season as a winner. The 61-year-old actor landed his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Jack Hock, the loyal accomplice of author-turned-literary forager Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) in the biopic “Can You [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita: Battle Angel' Banks on Foreign Audiences to Save It From Box Office Disaster

    “Alita: Battle Angel” beat expectations with its $27 million debut at the domestic box office, but Fox’s cyberpunk fantasy adventure has a long road to travel before it can claim victory. When it comes to achieving profitability, the CGI-spectacular may never arrive at that particular destination. With a production budget hovering at $170 million (Fox [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content