Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review of Empty Night / Noite Vazia

Sexy philtrums,
Fulsome tantrums,
Unfulfilling sex

The Brazilian film Noite Vazia (1964) is variously but blandly retitled as ‘Eros’ or ‘Men and Women’ in English. Far more evocative, and more fitting, is the direct translation: Empty Night.

Luisinho and Nelson, two jaded playboys, prowl Sao Paolo searching for “something new” and end up spending the night with high-end prostitutes Regina and Mara. Sounds sexist and a snooze, but… there’s something there.

Luis and Regina, the older pair, have a painfully tense anti-chemistry, like two veterans from opposite sides of a war. They hate how much they recognize in each other: bitter tongues, calloused hearts, boredom dulling their wits, age seeping into their bodies. Luis says she’s #367. He counts. He would. Regina says he’s #1800. But I doubt she counts.

Nelson and Mara are less interesting, but at least for them there might still be hope. Nelson’s inarticulate anger masks a sensitive soul, or maybe he’s just another misogynist-in-the-making. Maybe I’m falling into the same trap as his prey: mistaking him for deep and mysterious. Mara, meanwhile, is hopelessly unfit for her line of work: she still feels pity for men, still cares whether they seek her out a second time. But then again, her naïve longing (is the word ‘love’ ever spoken in this film?) might be a lifeline of sorts.

There are tons of little ups and down. Moments of emotion and humanity that, like weeds coming up through pavement, still struggle to express themselves despite a lack of sustenance. Rudolf Icsey’s velvety, inky cinematography provides little sunlight. Rogerio Duprat’s skittish, jaggy bossa nova is hostile soil.

Mirrors and male gaze. 
Two scenes are almost perfect.

A teenage bellboy tries to break in, looking for a place to make out with his timid girlfriend and assuming the suite to be unoccupied for the night. Luis, initially outraged, awkwardly invites the couple to join them. The girl bolts. The boy follows, less certain of what he’s escaping. From their balcony, the four leads watch them reunite in the street, upset with each other, out of hearing. A lot is running through their heads, across their faces: nostalgia, mockery, envy.

Noite Vazia reminds me how much I miss filmmakers who know how to do deep compositions. Almost nobody, appropriately enough, is on the same plane. The girl hides from the moment. The plant fits perfectly.
Late in the night the two couples wake up to a storm. Without words they strips off their clothes and walk out into the rain. It is arguably the film’s most erotically charged scene. It is the only time they experience the sensual pleasure they only pantomime in the bedroom. They can only drifts indolently downhill from there.

The film ends with minor acrimony and a return to lonely routine. Any one of them could have learned something, but they’ve chosen not to. And that’s perhaps the film’s most telling observation. 

Odete Lara, if you can't bring in some Google image search hits, nobody can.
Walrus Rating: 8.5

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