Mala Noche

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Van Sant's winning feature debut (made on 16mm for an incredible $25,000) tells the tale of a shabby store-boy's brief encounter with two desperate wetbacks. Walt (Streeter, excellent) spends most of his time selling liquor to the bums of Portland, Oregon. He becomes obsessed with 16-year-old cock-tease Johnny, who doesn't speak a word of American but knows the difference between 15 and 25 dollars. Walt pursues him in his dreams and through the rainy nights, but only manages to put up (yes, that way too) his gun-toting friend Pepper, who is in his turn pursued by the cops. Walt's pawky commentary brings out the equivocal nature of his fragile relationship with the two boys: he may nurse Pepper when he's ill, let Johnny swipe food when he's hungry, but as a comparatively wealthy gringo Walt is nevertheless exploiting the situation. Even so - as one sweaty scene reveals - a Mexican can still make 'white butt squeal'. Offbeat, offhand, and at times off-the-wall, this sad and funny film recalls Streetwise and Stranger Than Paradise, but in its own unabashed way is better than either.

Release details

Duration: 78 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenwriter: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Tim Streeter
Doug Cooeyate
Ray Monge
Nyla McCarthy
Sam Downey
Bob Pitchlynn
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