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Made for $25,000, the debut film from Gus Van Sant, MALA NOCHE, tells the story of Walt, a convenience store worker at the bad end of town. Walt likes the Mexican boys, and meets Johnny, a sexy illegal migrant who speaks no English. Walt harbours not only sexual but romantic feelings for Johnny, but the immigrant distances himself from Walt's lustful advances. Dejected, Walt initiates a mutually beneficial relationship with Johnny's friend Roberto, swapping money for sex, while secretly longing for Johnny. As Walt tries to go about his daily activities, he finds himself drawn into the crime-filled lives of the Mexican boys.
1 member review(s)
Van Sant's debut one of his finest achievements
04 December 2008
Why is it that directors' early works are so often superior to their subsequent output? Why is it that the debut film, often made with a tiny fraction of the budget, no famous actors and inexperienced crew, often proves to be the director's apex in terms of creativity and originality? For Aronofsky it was 'Pi'; for Lynch, 'Eraserhead'; for Resnais, 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'; and for Gus Van Sant, it was 'Mala Noche'.
Like the directors listed above, Van Sant has made some very good films throughout his career: 'My Own Private Idaho', 'Elephant' and, most recently, 'Paranoid Park', have all been exceptional. However, 'Mala Noche' stands at least equal, if not superior to the rest, featuring some excellent black & white cinematography, a fine performance by the leads and, most importantly, a frank, sympathetic, while completely unpatronising look at homosexual desire. Like some of the best films, little happens in the story: Walt has a crush on an attractive Mexican boy, but finds his advances rejected, so has to make do with a kind of friendship (and, sometimes, sex) with the friend of his object of desire.
To say this is a film about unrequited love does it injustice, because it is far superior to most films that deal with such an issue. This is nowhere near a Hollywood film where the boy chases the girl, instead replacing that 2D cliche with a 3-dimensional portrayal of real life.
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