Mala Noche
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Mala Noche

USA, 1985, 78 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Gay, Latino/a
Program: Michael Lumpkin Retrospective
Language: English, Spanish

DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant

Over the years, Frameline and Michael Lumpkin have introduced many stellar filmmakers to San Francisco and the world. One of the most exciting debuts came in 1986, when Lumpkin welcomed a young director named Gus Van Sant to the Castro stage to present his first feature, Mala Noche.
The film’s black-and-white cinematography, powerful story of a young gay man’s unrequited love for a 16-year-old illegal alien from Mexico, and sensitive performance by Tim Streeter in the lead role made it an immediate hit. More than twenty years later, it remains one of the most interesting works in Van Sant’s impressive career—and perhaps the gayest (at least until Milk is released later this year).
Van Sant’s unobtrusive visual style fit perfectly with Streeter’s charming, understated perform-ance as Walt, an openly and happily gay man who lives and works among the winos and migrant workers on Portland’s skid row. When Walt meets Johnny, he develops a hopelessly doomed passion that he seems to know is unrealistic but can’t seem to shake. Van Sant’s slightly off-kilter but matter-of-fact depiction of the likeable Walt’s anguish over his obsessive attachment to a frightened teenager creates an elevated realism that sweeps viewers up in his story while never even seeming to try.

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