Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Un-Break the Wind: YOU AND THE NIGHT (2013)



You and the Night (2013) aka "Les rencontres d'après minuit" Dir Yann Gonzalez's tale of an orgy magically turned into a winter bonding session, has such a "alone and slutty on Xmas" vibe I felt I hard to post this full version of an older review. Viola!

You'll either love it like a new crush or think it's too jejune et naïf, or--like me--do both at once, in alternating currents of cringe and swoon, but you're bound to agree: if Jean Cocteau was doing a contemporary film about a Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) meeting on snowy Sunday midnight, inside a soundstage spaceship, and everyone (i.e. gorgeous men and handsome women, a Cocteau signature) was feeling especially vulnerable and lonely (for only the desperate come out on a night like this) and the meeting was small enough that everyone got to share at some length, and then they all went out to the diner afterwards and walked and talked til dawn, all bonded close by abject loneliness and the perfection of the moment -- You and the Night (aka  Les rencontres d'après minuit )is exactly the film you'd have.
 
Or if you want to go the other way, if Radley Metzger was doing a contemporary film about a late-night after-the-bars-close party at the futuristic apartment of a pair of MDMA-dealing swingers; and the cast were feeling especially vulnerable and lonely, and they all wanted some kind of experience, and so they all dropped (everything from ecstasy to inhibitions) and, instead of having an orgy, wound up bonding and confessing and just passionately holding hands (as one is apt to do on it) and then--their group bond cast in stone, and then, born anew in each other's esteem-- went mentally swooning and swirling across the Parisian night as one giant loving phantom until dawn (and if there was any signature Metzger sex, it had been snipped out long ago by censors), You and the Night would be exactly the film you'd have.

They thought they wanted an orgy, but what they found was 'connection.'

Don't laugh! Why do Americans laugh at these things!? Why do they fear the openness of the heart? 


Kate Moran and Niels Schneider play the beautiful rich jet-set hosts (they have a kind of deadpan debauched sophisto Bela-Edward rapport) aware of, and encouraging each other's rampant sexual appetites like only an open-marriage-having pair of jet-set swingers can (shades of Score!) with a love-in/live-in drag queen maid (Nicholas Maury, Call Your Agent). The guest all represent certain beautiful people types common at these soirees (uh, presumably): Alain-Fabien Delon (Alain Delon's even more gorgeous son) is the "Teenager." He left his parents because they were "too afraid of life." A runaway hustler with his own loving code, he found himself there on the lonely benches of the Parisian parks in the midnight hours. Fabienne Babe is the "Star," insisting the hosts turn out the lights before she comes in, so no one can see how old she is, and they oblige, and she comes slinking into the scene, kissing each one in turn with the lights off, before getting comfortable enough to even later take off her wig. 

All of them have their story. The Star dives into the tale of her beautiful sexy son, with whom she had a Kay Parker-esque love affair.  Eric Cantona is "the Stallion" -with his horse cock ever proudly out at half-mast, lamenting that his sexual desirability derailed his destiny.

His destiny? He wanted to become a poet. 

Sexual vigor somehow prevented him from writing poems.

The cast continues: Julia Bremond is "the Bitch," a gloriously unhinged nymphomaniac with bad bangs and a need for constant verbal provocation. She goes on and on about her preference for orgies that have rooms full of masked "rednecks" with their cocks out and ready ("they come all over me and I love it!").  
Strange as it is to say, Les rencontres d'après minuit works because it is French, and only the French could deliver (or hear) lines like "my cock became my obsession--I forgot poetry" or "I curse the cock that tore me from my destiny!" with a straight face. Since we're reading it in subtitles it's somehow OK).  In the US, upon hearing you've decided to be a poet, everyone--your parents especially--roll their eyes, but should you go to France, they revere you! They still may not show up to your open mic night debut, but they're proud to know a real live poet. 

If you waste that talent on just being a stud, monsieur you will never endure the ages. 

As the gathered orgiasts' individual, and quite fanciful, tales, stories, and dreams are unfold, they are reenacted through a colorful whirl of pretty intensely minimalist artificial backdrops and mythic costuming. We see very stylized vignettes wherein the terrors of self-doubt and loneliness strike even in the thick of orgiastic fantasy. The Slut's recurring dream: the "armada of cocks" at her "disposal" is depicted in a Suspiria-esque orgy hall, but populated with a series of exhausted middle-aged and elderly men, naked with masks on, slumped against the red and black striped wall, and as she crawls forward past them, her face aging and sagging as she goes. We're told the story of the hosts' love affair via painterly tableaux, presumably, some fictionalized version of North Africa. His saying goodbye to head off to war in some ancient/timeless past, with his fine Arab charger at his side; she later finding out he's dead and digging up his coffin with the help of a magical black-winged gypsy angel (Maury) whose price to bring him back from the dead is to always be around them as a lifelong threesome, that he might bask in their gorgeous love and join in as the mood and moment strikes. She agrees and her man comes back to life, though sans an eye (he has a very fetching scar and eye patch). Moran is awed of Maury's power: "You're like Jesus!" ("Oui," Maury says, "only worse."). 

They live happily ever after. 

Or do they? Why does death seem to be looming so near Schneider's side? Things seem so perfect, yet her one-eyed war vet never really lets go of that comfy coffin. 


Other tasteful, surreal vignettes include he Stallion's brush with the "Komissar," a whip-smacking Russian officer played by Beatrice Dalle (see: Betty Blue Come Blow Your Mind!). In a block box theater version of a Russian prison, she orders him to crawl on fours in his BVDs while she snaps the whip, and says embarrassing things like "Stab me with your pork sword!" and drives herself to climax. The prison is a model of economy in soundstage art direction worthy of Ulmer: we see the bars of the cell they're in; we hear the sounds of other prisoners in the darkness; we see the hands reach out to him through the bars, pleading for release; through the miracle of light and shadow the prison seems to extend for miles in all directions, a giant Shining cell bar maze of men trapped in the mental prison of their own kinky desires. 

But now, here he is, safe and free and in the company of this rarefied orgy. "The Stud" confesses he thought he'd never get out of there. " I'd still be in that cell, frozen with terror and paralysis....like all those who long to revive the wind."


Revive the wind, Stallion! Sheathe thy sword and hoist the notebook paper sails, that they may be filled with gusty couplets! 


The French have a far more poetic cinema from which to dig for inspiration and reference than we vulagares Américains, who only have the films of John Cameron Mitchell (i.e. Hedwig, Shortbus, How to Talk to Girls at Parties) as proof we're inclusive and occasionally capable of nonjudgmental drug-and-music assisted love and acceptance. Perhaps this why only the French and French film fans and weird cult movie enthusiasts will be predisposed to love this film as much as I do, despite its ridiculous theatricality.  Mme Jannings notes on imdb: 
"This is a movie that cannot be seen with the eyes of evasion. It is a movie that needs to be watch it (sic) with the eyes of the soul as well as the physical eyes, without prejudgments, and without taboos." 
Oui, mademoiselle!  Can Americans (and Brits) feel these genuine sincere and warm emotions, even as they roll their eyes and sigh "oh, brother!" just to cover their bets, as I am now doing? 

Sure, You and the Night has a pleased-with-itself, breast fed-til-18 sense of entitlement, but it's somehow not as offensive coming from pretty young European aesthetes as it is from America's nepo-babies. Sure, it's so much like a theater group performing a SAA meeting in a science fiction bubble where qualifications come alive as surreal vignettes, but it's got such a warm and inclusive heart underneath its art school posturing it's hard to resist. It's the supreme abstract style of, say, Anna Biller welded to the open heart of John Cameron Mitchell.

And most importantly, if you wish to understand Cocteau, which is to understand France, and you wish to understand Radley Metzger (Score, in particular), and wish to understand Herr Mitchell (i.e. Hedwig), you must appreciate that--once you are no longer ashamed or frustrated--sex is no more dangerous underneath its leather studs than a little puppy. Once embraced with total acceptane, magic can happen. We're talking Apollonian Kenneth Anger-via-Max Reinhardt magic ritual-fairy dust settling like snow (which also falls at one point). It's a magic that amply compensates for its overall...eh, ow you say, eh.., self-indulgent wankery? Just say yes and magic happens. I'm as cynical as any of my fine American brethren but I was in tears by the end the first time I saw this...

and the second...

and even the third. 

Director Yann Gonzalez would continue his polyamorous erotique-cum-Argento style/structure (albeit with far more graphic sex and the introduction of brutal violence) for the neon-drenched Knife + Heart, a  nicely surreal post-giallo about an aging alcoholic lesbian director of gay porn (well-played by Vanessa Paradis) trying to win back her ex-lover (Kate Moran!). It's set in the 70s, so she keeps calling her from filthy phone booths, pleasing for another chance. I don't blame Paradis' porn director for wanting her back, as I'm kind of enthralled by after her You and the Night, wherein her final tearful proposition in the dawn's early light had me bawling and happy the way I hadn't felt watching a French movie since the first half of Betty Blue, which I used to drink and cry to obsessively back in the early-90s.

And then there's the great chillbient (is that still a thing?) M83 score (i.e. Yann's brother, Anthony), a perfect choice for amping the intensity of 21st century ecstasy-tinged post-club emotional all sunrise bonding. If it all adds up to a nice bunch of parts rather than a movie, well, what of it? Love leaves a new hole for every old one it fills (that line is mine, but you can use it, for we're all one.

Even more importantly than all these little perks, You and the Night is a unique film but one that shouldn't need to stand alone, unloved and in the snowy night. Not anymore.  It's every loner's dream to find a readymade clique of like-minded good-looking outcasts to call a family or artistic collective. For libertines such as these, it's a love far rarer than the carnal or romantic. If you find it, you have to drop everything and run with it all the way, to the grave, and--especially if you're a debauched French poet--even beyond. 

Don't laugh at them.... not now. Just come in, come in. 


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