Sunday, 23 February 2014

Queers At The Drive-In: Mala Noche (1985)

Hi all,
To celebrate the last week of Mardi Gras in Sydney, I've decided to do a week of reviews of films with LGBT characters. Like The Halloween 13, these are not the best queer films ever made, they're just the ones I've had sitting around and had been planning to watch for sometime. That is, except for the last one, a film which is very close to my heart. However, for the moment, I present my review of Mala Noche, Gus Van Sant's (Milk) first ever feature film.
   Oh, and a couple of other things. The categories at the bottom are:
   Sex/Nudity: How sexy and explicit the sex and nudity is.
   Glamouressness: Does it glamorise the gay lifestyle? How true is it to reality?
   Stereotypes: Does the story present any stereotypes about queer people? If it does, how does it use them and does the film help overcome them?
   As usual, the verdict is out of 10. And don't worry, I'll still be doing my usual weekly post on Wednesday as per usual. I just thought this might be a fun little thing for me to do this week!

 Mala Noche
1985, US, Directed by Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant is fast becoming one of my favourite directors. Previously, I’d seen Restless, Paranoid Park and Milk (now one of my absolute favourite films), and then I sat down to watch Mala Noche, Van Sant’s very first film. I don’t really know what I was expecting, other than it was a very different film to what I imagined it would be. It’s like a Wong Kar Wai film, gorgeously lit, artsy, sensual and incredibly emotional. The story is paper thin (a convenience store owner crushes on a young Mexican boy, Johnny, so gets with his best friend, Pepper, in order to remain close) but that hardly matters because it’s so well-directed. It’s like a noir film with high contrast black and white cinematography, which just adds to my suspicions that black and white really is ideally used when displaying extreme emotions. It’s like the feelings that the film are giving add enough colour. I can’t even imagine if this were in colour, it would be a completely different film (and would make the best scene, the sudden appearance of colour, meaningless. The contrast of this moment is stunning and beautiful, like the most famous scene from La Jetee). And the overwhelming feeling this film is trying to convey is that of lust and sensuality and it does it so well. We only get one (very mild) sex scene, but the film is oozing with eroticism. You’ve got the usual cigarette smoking, but the use of a train during the aforementioned sex scene is stunningly lustful. I loved this movie. It was absolutely beautiful, incredibly sexy and downright beautiful in some moments, the perfect way to begin this week of gay cinema.
Sex/Nudity: 3 (mild sex scene, nudity mainly obscured by shadow and the fact that it feels so sensual).
Glamorousness: 2 (far from a glamourised image of homosexuality, this is a stunning film about unrequited love at its most passionate, not at its most creepy)
Stereotypes: 2 (the main story of a gay crushing on an unattainable straight character is fairly common in gay cinema, but depth is added as you discover the true nature of the relationship)
Best Scene: The sudden appearance of colour
Overall Verdict: 8
See you all tomorrow!

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