THIS NIGHT (TONIGHT) (NUIT DE CHIEN) (DIESE NACHT) (director/writer: Werner Schroeter; screenwriter: from the novel “Para esta noche” by Juan Carlos Onetti/Gilles Taurand; cinematographer: Thomas Plenert; editors: Julia Gregory/Bilbo Calvez /Peter Przygodda; music: Eberhard Kloke; cast: Pascal Greggory (Luis Ossorio Vignale), Bruno Todeschini (Morasan), Éric Caravaca (Villar), Amira Casar (Irene), Nathalie Delon (Madame Risso), Jean-François Stévenin (Martins), Sami Frey (Barcala), Laura Martin (Victoria), Elsa Zylberstein (Maria), Mostefa Djadjam (Granowsky), João Baptista (Juan Hernandez), Pascale Schiller (Agnes), Marc Barbe (Vargas), Bulle Olgier (Doña Inês), Oleg Zhukov (Max); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating:NR; producers: Paulo Branco/Frieder Schlaich; Alfama Films/PAL format; 2008-Portugal/Germany/France-in French with English subtitles)
“The highly stylized work revels in the absurdity of fascist decadence.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Eccentric avant-garde German filmmaker Werner Schroeter (“Anglia”/”Neurasia”/”Malina”) adapts the existentialist 1943 novel “For This Night” by the Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti about a fantasy military dictatorship coming apart from an attack by a stronger army and with betrayals from within. The artistic Schroeter stages this apocalyptic work–a visually stunning piece of mannered film-making–with scenes put together as if an opera. Its material is reminiscent of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Schroeter co-writes it with Gilles Taurand as a nightmarish Kafkaesque melodrama.
The paranoid thriller tells of a criminally corrupt unnamed bestial country that has fallen, with only one surviving city, a chaotic and anarchy rife port town called Santa Maria, located somewhere in South America. It’s an inhuman inferno with unscrupulous militias roaming the dark streets, as the only hope for some is if they can get tickets to the last boat leaving. But that’s hopeless, as the deposed former ruler, a madman named Barcala (Sami Frey) has secretly bought all the boat tickets and has barricaded himself into his heavily armed villa.
The highly stylized work revels in the absurdity of fascist decadence. Its freedom fighting doctor hero, Luis Ossorio Vignale (Pascal Greggory), a world-weary resistance fighter, an innocent Candide figure searching for new beginnings, returns from the front lines by train and arrives at the ravished city of Santa Maria at night in the hopes of getting two tickets to escape by boat with his journalist former lover Carla. But she’s not home and none of his contacts knows her whereabouts, but fear her critique of the regime made her vulnerable for the secret police. Luis is told by one contact that a man named Manu will sell him tickets if he meets him at the First, a brothel run by the decadent Madame Risso (Nathalie Delon). But he never shows, or is the unidentified murdered man discovered at the brothel.
From hereon the good doctor, also addressed as Colonel, runs into a reign of terror, as a General Fraga is soon to launch an attack that will destroy the city and meanwhile the power-hungry leaders of his former regime now separate, betray each other and fight only for their own survival. The captain of the secret police Morasan (Bruno Todeschini) and his flunky aide, Villar (Éric Caravaca), are sadists. They kill the First’s bisexual waiter Juan (João Baptista), after he turns on them for humiliating him and then making him become an informer, and then bring into their headquarters Madame Risson and Irene (Amira Casar) for torture. The latter is the whore girlfriend of their now enemy deposed leader Barcala. Unable to extract from Irene where Barcala is hiding, they beat her so hard her spleen is bleeding and she can’t swallow. But soon receive an anonymous tip, called in by Luis, telling them where Barcala is hiding. Luis contacted the military head, a depraved opportunist named Martins (Jean-François Stévenin), and from his info was able to meet Barcala and learn he holds all the boat tickets. The doomed man, before blowing himself up, gives Luis two tickets, bitterly remembering they were once friends. When Luis realizes he will never see Carla again and the whore Maria (Elsa Zylberstein) turns him down to wait for the return of her waiter boyfriend Juan, Luis decides to take with him on the boat Victoria (Laura Martin). She’s the young daughter of Barcala, who was abandoned by the fleeing nuns at her boarding school and is now an orphan. Though the fleeing duo reach the docks, before they can leave the port they are ambushed by the new head of the secret police, Villar, who replaced his boss after he committed suicide.
The point made is that there’s no escape from such evil, and no return to innocence if you are trying looking back to see who is with you from the past.
REVIEWED ON 4/11/2014 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ