A story of amour fou. Walt is madly in love/lust with a young illegal Mexican immigrant. However, the object of his unrequited affection doesn't even speak any English and finds Walt really... See full summary »
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Harry Dean Stanton,
A story of amour fou. Walt is madly in love/lust with a young illegal Mexican immigrant. However, the object of his unrequited affection doesn't even speak any English and finds Walt really strange and undesirable. Written by
Cristian Redferne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Working in the store Sunday all day, I want to drink this Mexican boy Johnny Alonzo from L.A. near Riverside. He makes my heart throb - thumpety, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum - when I see him.
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As the stagnant state of films in the 1980's was still in its inevitable decline the emergence of a new breed of American independent directors saw this as a moment full of opportunity. Gus Van Sant decided to turn his camera on the outcasts of a small Portland neighborhood and create an intimate portrait of 3 young men at an important turning point in their lives. Not only is Mala Noche an influential example of 1980's independent cinema it also serves as a milestone for the New Queer Cinema that would become more prevalent in the 1990's. Gus Van Sant's stark debut would serve as a blueprint for many directors to come.
Mala Noche focuses on convenience store worker Walt's and his infatuation with a young immigrant Jonny who is fresh off riding the rails from Mexico with his friend Pepper. From the film's first scene its unabashed open "gayness" lets the viewer know what they are in for. Van Sant makes no attempt to justify his films openly gay stance instead he embraces it and explores the beauty and darkness that accompany it. Walt and Johnny coexist solely based on their parasitic relationship. Walt gushes romanticized convictions for a boy he knows little about, such as "I want to drink this Mexican boy" or "I have to show him that I'm gay for him." While Johnny uses Walt for a house to crash and the occasional joy ride in his car. At the same time both are uncomfortable with their personal situation but can't help to hold on to what they have left.
John Campbell's bleak camera work adds a lot to the look of the seedy underbelly of Portland almost as if it could have been shot as a documentary. Mala Noche is one the few films that benefits from working on such a small budget. It gives the viewer a sense that Van Sant was truly in touch on a deeper level with his subjects than just an "actor/director" level. Ultimately Mala Noche is a profound representation of America's emerging "gay" cinema and an important document of Portland in the mid 1980's. Gus Van Sant would go onto make stronger films but this fascinating debut will show he has shown a strong passion for his films and his subjects right from the beginning.
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