The first feature from acclaimed director Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, Last Days), Mala Noche is a hauntingly beautiful black-and-white meditation on lust, love, obsession, and class. Stuck behind the cash register of a convenience store in Portland’s skid row, young Walt (Tim Streeter) becomes infatuated with Johnny (Doug Cooeyate), a Mexican teenager and illegal immigrant who is willing to reciprocate Walt’s attentions – to a point. Although Walt subsequently turns to Johnny’s friend Pepper (Ray Monge), he is unable to shake his fixation, and finds his crush becoming an all-consuming amour fou. Screened intermittently since 1985, but never given a proper theatrical release, the Calgary Cinematheque is proud to present Mala Noche in this new 35mm print.
Time has been extraordinarily kind to the indie legend’s debut … the movie’s preference for the elliptical over the explicit has proved to be an enduring form of personal expression.David Fear, Time Out New York
Van Sant was a key figure on the American independent film scene of the 1980s and 1990s, offering poetic yet clear-eyed excursions through America’s seamy underbelly in films like Drugstore Cowboy (1989) and My Own Private Idaho (1991). Openly gay, Van Sant dealt unflinchingly with marginalized subcultures. Even as he segued into the mainstream with Good Will Hunting (1997) and Milk (2008), he stayed true to his artful, gritty vision. Van Sant was the rare filmmaker who dipped in and out of the studio system with ease, and while his more experimental, limited release works were some of his strongest, he had a remarkable ability to stay true to his striking visual style and penchant for societal outcasts, while at the same time, crafting widely appealing films. Most recently, Van Sant’s work on Milk has been recognized with an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
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