Not rated, 78 min. Directed by Gus Van Sant. Starring Tim Streeter, Doug Cooeyate, Ray Monge.
What's it about getting behind the wheel and getting it on that seemingly compels writer/director Gus Van Sant to draw comparisons between the two in his films? In the 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy, the most memorable line is uttered when Kelly Lynch complains about husband Matt Dillon's lack of conjugal attention: “You never fuck me, and I always have to drive.” In the earlier 1986 film Mala Noche, it comes when the reckless Mexican boy with whom Tim Streeter is infatuated runs the car off the road: “You drive like you fuck!” Van Sant's first major film (his most recent is My Own Private Idaho), the gritty, low-budget Mala Noche is a mordant take on unrequited love set in the skid row of Portland, Oregon. Its initial arrival was breathtaking: it marked the promise of an original voice in a medium increasingly applauding mediocrity. Although activists have criticized Van Sant as a self-loathing gay man who doesn't toe the politically correct line, such faultfinding fails to appreciate that Van Sant's preoccupation with those romantic interlopers who tenuously exist on the fringes has little to do with the matter of sexual orientation. If witnessing raw talent at work excites you, then see this diamond-in-the-rough in its return engagement.