“You tried to kill him with his own pickax. That’s not right. You can’t kill a man with his belongings.”
Arturo Ripstein’s tart, absurdist comedy, appropriately filmed in black and white, begins with two men beating a third to death in the dirt. Who’s to blame? Listen to the lyrics of a popular song: “Damn women are the ruination of men.” Only, no woman has anything to do with the crime! The three men are members of the Black Gammoners, an amateur baseball team. The victim, however hard he practices, never succeeds, either in the field or up at bat. When he strikes out with bases loaded, deciding the game in favor of the Corn on the Cobs, his two teammates make good on their threat to dispatch him to that great diamond in the sky. One of them steals their former teammate’s snakeskin boots after snapping the corpse’s ankles. The victim is in no position to protest the call; but one of his “widows” recognizes the boots and whacks the wearer’s ankles with a baseball bat before making the poor guy lick her feet. After exacting this bit of justice from him, she allows the schmuck to hobble away.
The deceased’s two girlfriends fight over his remains at the police station; a coin toss resolves the conflict. All in all, the gals come off seeming fairer than the guys.
Ripstein began as an apprentice to Luis Buñuel during the shoot of The Exterminating Angel (1962). His target in The Ruination of Men is schoolboy competitiveness in grown men (baseball is a perfect occasion for blurring the age difference), which ends here in murder. Fans of the humor in Ionesco’s plays and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot should apply to this hilarious film at once.
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