1995, NR, 90 min. Directed by Frieder Schlaich, Irene Von Alberti. Starring Paul Bowles, Samir Guesmi, Khaled Ksouri, Sondos Belhassen, Veronica Quilligan, Sam Cox, Said Zakir, Mohammed Belfquih.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 29, 1996
Three short stories by Paul Bowles are brought to the screen in Halfmoon. United by their common themes of revenge and human cruelty, each 30-minute story is also notable for the atmospheric camerawork of Volker Tittel. The look of these stories is no small thing, for in Bowles' universe the environment is always a governing element in the human drama. (His best-known work is The Sheltering Sky.) For my tastes, the human drama in Halfmoon is way too thin and cerebral, though it should be noted that this film is also a prize-winner that won the Young Filmmaker's Trophy at the 1995 Berlin International Film Festival. Paul Bowles himself wryly introduces each story as he sits in his Tangiers apartment tapping away at an old manual typewriter. The first story, Merkala Beach, is introduced by Bowles as a depiction of the superior effects of smoking kif over drinking liquor. His examples are two shiftless male friends in Tangiers. The boozer likes to pick up women but considers every woman with whom he succeeds to be a prostitute. The smoker likes to go back to his room alone and light up. When, at the end of the story, a woman drops the boozer in favor of the stoner, I imagine that this is supposed to illustrate Bowles' point. The second story, Call at Corazon, observes an American couple (seemingly patterned after Paul and Jane Bowles) whose marriage steadily disintegrates as they travel up the Amazon on their honeymoon. He wants to buy a monkey; she wants to drink. Each seems to want to hurt the other; each succeeds. The last story, Allal, is the most cryptic of all. It's about a Moroccan orphan who learns to charm snakes. As a whole, these three stories create a moody and faintly nasty work, but for me the emphasis is on the word “faintly.”