CAPSULE: YOU AND THE NIGHT (2013)

Les Rencontres d’Après Minuit

DIRECTED BY: Yann Gonzalez

FEATURING: Kate Moran, Niels Schneider, Nicolas Maury, Alain-Fabien Delon, Julie Brémond, Eric Cantona, Fabienne Babe, Béatrice Dalle

PLOT: A couple and their transvestite maid invite the Slut, the Stud, the Teen and the Star to an orgy at their swinging Paris pad.

Still from You and the Night (2013)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s very weird, but it’s also super talky, super French… sadly, too talky and French to be enjoyable.

COMMENTS: You and the Night is one of those European arthouse sex films where people prefer talking about doing it to actually doing it. There’s not even any nudity until the thirty-minute mark, when a bit of male prosthetic business is pulled out as a reward for those who’ve stuck with it for this long. Instead, there is a lot of dialogue along the lines of “always follow the clues you see in dreams… especially when they’re terrifying” and a cross-dressing maid. The setup involves various sexual archetypes arriving at the scheduled orgy, then regaling the other guests with absurdist backstory. For example, in the most memorable flashback “the Stud” explains why he is late; his story starts when he was a six-year old poet and ends with him in a cell in his underwear being whipped by Béatrice Dalle.

About half way through, the structure shifts as we get a much longer fairy tale exposition explaining how our hosts came to be a threesome. This segment, which is the movie’s most interesting digression and might have made a good standalone short, involves a war, eternal vows, and a satanic prayer that must have been a blast for the translator to work on (“oh keeper of the schlong and wretched sepulchers…”). After this high point, however, Night dissolves into a trippy trickle of self-serious surrealism, with disconnected scenes set on a beach, in a cinema, and superimposed over the cosmos.

Visually, the film is geometric, cleanly modern and generally appealing, although Gonzalez loves the blue day-for-night filter a little too much for my tastes. Much better are the storybook mise-en-scene of the middle section, with painted suns and moons glowing over the spare desert and cemetery sets. The music is by an electronic band called M83; the tuneage sounds competent to these ears, but digital aficionados rate it highly. Overall, the languid Night didn’t have a strong enough sense of purpose appeal to me, nor does it strike me as the kind of work that’s notable enough to demand a spot on the List despite my personal lack of enthusiasm. But it’s not terribly offensive in any way, just tedious by the end. I do suspect it will appeal to some of our readers. It’s like a music video director’s conception of how a modern-day collaboration between the Marquis de Sade and Samuel Beckett would play out. If that sounds like a must-see to you, have at it.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…[a] chamber piece of sex, surreality and the absurd, like something by Luis Buñuel or Luigi Pirandello, or a sexed-up version of TS Eliot’s The Cocktail Party.”–Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (contemporaneous)

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