Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Bad Night

Trailer for Mala Noche

Gus Van Sant is best known by film freaks for his early work (Discipline of D.E., Mala Noche, Drugstore Cowboy, My own private Idaho). Future film freaks know him for Elephant and Paranoid Park and normal people for Good Will Hunting and maybe, Milk, the eight Oscar nominations blast. Whatever category you're part of, it's your business.

25000$ and 16 mm film Mala Noche took to be made in 1985. This high contrast, under and overexposed film tells the story of Walt's friendship with two illegal immigrants and his unfulfilled love with one of the boys. It's not a big deal this mixed up story about 3 guys, but the courage and sincerity behind it turned it into a great debut.
Walt, played by Tim Streeter is a young "privileged" American who falls in love with 16 years old Mexican, Johnny. While having the charm, but not having the money, he fails to make the stubborn Mexican share his feelings. What he gets though is his friend, another young and confused one by the name of Pepper. These two end up having a short, meaningless relationship.

An achievement of this experimental movie is that the non-narrative formula was very creatively sustained by, maybe sometimes improvised, but powerful cinematography of John Campbell. Along with film noir aesthetics there's also a grunge mood and look throughout this movie, and I don't mean Streeter's shirts and torn t-shirt he's always dresses with (he's the stereotypical Gus Van Sant character that you also see with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix in his next film).
What makes this film a pleasure to watch are the grainy black and white shots (some people know what I mean...) along with the contrastry images. Powerful scenes are shot at night where you hardly see dark streets (by day or by night, I'm sure Portland doesn't look in real life the way this director shoots it) and characters wrapped in cigarettes smoke. In this film the heart shaped ashtray is always full and glasses always empty. A must see for the first category I named in the beginning.

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