Friday, June 20, 2008

Mala Noche

Friday, June 20, 2:15 pm, Castro Theatre

I'm a great fan of Gus Van Sant, the director who has brought us everything from Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho to Good Will Hunting and a music video for Hanson, not to mention Elephant, the 1998 remake of Psycho, and later this year Milk, with Sean Penn playing the trailblazing openly gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk. Van Sant's first feature, though, was Mala Noche, the story of Walt, a convenience store clerk who goes gaga over a Mexican illegal immigrant boy who doesn't speak English and probably isn't even 18, and pursues him directly and through his friends, undaunted by their clear lack of interest, taking their callous abuse and coming back for more. While it was interesting, in a kind of a "train wreck" sort of way, to watch the story unfold, I never felt like I could get inside Walt's head — not that I particularly wanted to. I just find it difficult to enjoy a film in which the protagonist is a pathetic loser whom I don't even like. Absolutely a must-see for film students and Van Sant fans, but otherwise not recommended.

Mala Noche, dir. Gus Van Sant, 1985 USA 78 min.

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1 comment:

  1. Oh, dear, we disagree again. I saw Mala Noche when it first screened, and perhaps that's why I have such fondness for it. The imagery was quite lovely and provocative for the time, and for me remains so. Indie film was a different beast in those days. It wasn't about mimicking Hollywood films, it was about progressive thought and suggestion. This film dealt with sexuality race and class in a very rich, subtle way. Streeter's character was "weak"/weakened b/c of his exploitative desires. A white patriarchal desire for corporeal ownership, that Van Sant might've been the first to filmically apply to gay white men.

    Maybe it's just me, but as a cinephile, Mala Noche is one of those films I recall and only wish the filmmaker had lived up to his potential. I'm excited to see what Van Sant will accomplish with Milk, however!