(director/writer: Gus Van Sant; screenwriter: story by
Walt Curtis; cinematographer: John Campbell; editor: Gus
Van Sant; music: Creighton Lindsay; cast: Tim
Streeter (Walt Curtis), Doug Cooeyate (Johnny),
Ray Monge (Roberto Pepper), Nyla
McCarthy (Betty), Don Chambers (Himself), Sam
Downey (Hotel Clerk), Bob Pitchlynn (Drunk Man), Ken
Presler (Hustler), Bad George Connor (Wino); Runtime:
78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gus Van Sant;
Janus Films; 1986-USA-English and Spanish, with English
"About open homosexual lust."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
feature film debut of the 33-year-old director Gus Van
Sant ("Drugstore Cowboy"/"Good Will Hunting"/"My Own
Private Idaho") was
made on 16mm for only $25,000. It's set in Van
Sant's Portland, Oregon hometown. It has been said
that this indie gay film has been the forerunner of
the New Queer Cinema, as it's a film that is ahead
of its time since such an openly honest portrayal of
a homosexual was not seen in mainstream movies in
the 1980s. Mala Noche is about open
homosexual lust, and is a study in obsession. It's
based on the autobiographical story of Walt Curtis.
The black-and-white film centers around a seedy world
of drunks, workers on dead-end jobs, transients,
illegals, stoners and idlers. Seeing it at this late
date, the drama is not dated and serves as a time
capsule to an era of alienation that still has not
vanished from the American scene.
film's Walt Curtis provides a voice-over throughout.
twentyish homosexual liquor store clerk Walt Curtis
(Tim Streeter) falls in love at first sight with the
16-year-old Mexican illegal immigrant Johnny (Doug
Cooeyate), who hangs out at his skid-row convenience
store after arriving by rail from California. Johnny
turns down Walt's sexual advances, but accepts a
dinner invitation for a meal prepared by Walt's
platonic friend Betty (Nyla McCarthy).
Johnny brings along his fellow illegal immigrant
flophouse roommate Roberto (Ray Monge).
When Walt offers to pay Johnny $15 for a roll in the
hay, Johnny wants $25. But Roberto takes the offer,
which leads to an uneasy love triangle among the
threesome. The Mexicans cruelly belittle Walt and
humiliate the gringo despite his generosity. Later
Walt becomes Roberto's protector and caretaker when
Johnny suddenly splits to visit relatives in another
state. Things get heavy when the cops kill Roberto and
Betty moves to Alaska to be an exotic dancer, as the
forlorn Walt is left alone with a broken-heart over
his unconsummated relationship with the returning
film was a hit on the festival circuit, though the
Sundance Festival turned it down in 1986 and it got
only a very limited theater release.
REVIEWED ON 7/22/2012 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ