Happy Pride month! Back in February, I made it my goal to watch a Black helmed film a day for the entirety of the month. For June I am going to do something similar, but instead of focusing on the director, I want to make sure that I am viewing a queer film a day for the entirety of the month. Creating a list for this month has actually proven much easier than finding Black directed films. I am sure some of that may be because of a negatively voyeuristic (I will never again watch The Danish Girl). To start my viewing, I am diving into New Queer Cinema a movement I have seen little of.
Mala Noche (1986, Dir. Gus Van Sant)
Gus Van Sant may be the man most synonymous with the New Queer Cinema movement, and while his debut feature film Mala Noche was not the earliest representative of New Queer Cinema, it came out during the movement’s infancy and likely had an influence on the films to follow.
Mala Noche taps into angst that would define Gen X as Walt (Tim Streeter) pines after Johnny (Doug Cooeyate) an undocumented Mexican immigrant who does not reciprocate Walt passions (or share his orientation). Walt work in a convenience shop where he can work in tatter t-shirts and affect a lackadaisical mentality. The only thing Walt seems to care about is his obsession with Johnny. Even in this obsession, Walt is happy to play increasingly ridiculous mating games letting Johnny drive his car into a guardrail and show up at his hotel room on hands and knees.
Taken literally, Walt engages in predatory practices and Mala Noche could be read as a propaganda film against queer people, but Mala Noche is not meant to be taken with such a literal interpretation. Walt is representative of the generation that 80s excess left behind. Walt is further looked down upon because of his sexuality, but rather than repress it, he uses it to thumb at the world. The film is about being unashamed about oneself.