Some guy tries to find his lost brother in Tijuana, Mexico. Beyond that, I remember very little of the story. But the story is not really the point. From director and camera expert Les Bernstien, "Night Train" is a low-budget film that wows the viewer with terrific B&W cinematography.
In the opening credits sequence, noir visuals combined with a great theme song immediately grabbed my interest. It's one of the best intros to a film I can recall, and suggests a Western motif. As the plot progresses, the same high quality visuals prevail, with slanted camera angles, scenes transposed over other scenes, and other camera tricks.
Background sounds are naturalistic, with no effort to edit out ambient traffic noise or people's voices, which adds enormously to a sense of realism. If nothing else, the viewer gets a harrowing impression of downtown Tijuana, an impression the local chamber of commerce probably would just as soon squash.
None of the characters in this film are appealing, least of all Joe, the lead character, surrounded by thugs and general lowlife. Sometimes we seem to be watching Joe's reality. At other times we're watching his internal nightmares. Reality and nightmare blend together. And with a general absence of plot structure, the story can be confusing and hard to follow.
But this is a film to watch for the terrific cinematography, not the story. It's like some brilliant cameraman happens on to some random thug, and then follows that thug through his desperate, chaotic search south of the border, and in the process the man with a camera creates a surreal home movie.
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