Valentin Merz breaks down “De Noche Los Gatos Son Pardos”
To the exuberant tones of Christophe’s “Aline”, lamenting the loss of his love, two shirtless men rejoice orgiastically as water rushing down a rock face soaks their bodies. Meanwhile, in a country house, servants and a gardener, dressed in period costumes, proudly pour what looks like a mixture of water and milk over the plants.
The scenes, it seems, are taken from a libertine costume drama, shot in the wooded French countryside. Then suddenly Valentin, the director, disappears. Local Clodhopping cops question the crew; Some time later, Robin, the film’s DP and Valentin’s lover, travels to Mexico, on the Pacific coast, to fulfill a promise.
Sensual, sexual, playful, mixing genres and very meta, “De Noche los Gatos Son Pardos”, winner of the First Look at Swiss Cinema at Locarno in 2021, will have its world premiere later this week in international competition at the Festival du Locarno movie. Picked up for global sales by Italy’s Open Reel ahead of the Festival, few films go against the standards of popcorn cinematic entertainment:
Everyone gets lost
In mainstream films, the hero achieves a goal. In “De noche los gatos son pardos”, everyone gets lost. “Valentin, the director, disappears; the police never solve the mystery. The undertakers get lost in the forest, Robin, the cameraman and lover of the director, gets lost in the Mexican jungle”, observes Merz. “A lot of the plot points we needed to reach were clear before filming, but we figured out the things that happened between them during filming. If Valentin’s disappearance is a mystery to the police, then it should be. a mystery to me too, said Merz.
A democratic sexuality…
In traditional movies, the hero, but often just the hero, gets his end. In “De Noche”, almost everyone gets a bit of the action, but not always what the audience might think. In same-sex scenes, Valentin the director has a weakness for finger (and sometimes toe) sucking. The film is perhaps the first in history where a character indulges himself with an accordion. “I wanted the actors and their characters to have a space to experimentally engage with their own desires. ‘De Noche…’ recognizes the importance of sexuality in most people’s lives and tries to look at this film set with love and humor,” Merz commented.
Departing from “De Noche”, the film seems to revolve around Valentin’s battle to make a film in which much is left to the inspiration of the actors. Then he disappears and other characters take center stage. An endearing but confused investigative policeman, then two undertakers, who seemed destined for a simple role as extras, but dominate part of the last sequences of the film. Then Robin takes over and the film once again changes tenor, going from an official comedy to a high-tension love story. “I wanted to make a film where I could house very diverse elements, very different from each other, and where one character has the lead role for a while but then another story and a new protagonist take over. Every character ‘main is connected to a different universe or genre. So Valentin’s world is erotic, the inspector is a murder mystery, and Maxi, one of the actresses, creates a world of zombies,” Merz said. Variety.
And a Democratic cast
Many directors call on non-pros, but few with such “De Noche’s…” rangers: a farmer from Limousin in France; Mauritanian asylum seekers; a player in the world of ethical pornography; classically trained film and theater actors; as well as Muxhes from the Istmo de Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Breaking down hierarchies
Merz quotes and is inspired by the philosopher Félix Guattari who said that to cure a patient in a psychiatric hospital, you must first cure the institution. “One of the main problems is the hierarchical structure. Patients must become autonomous by having more responsibilities. He suggested a new approach where patients would cook for their carers, drive them around, clean themselves and stage theatre. From Merz himself, playing Valentin, to DP Robin Mognetti as his lover Robin, most of the film crews also played roles in front of the camera. “It’s about tapping into people’s knowledge and asking them if they feel they can do something, and if they say ‘yes’, they do it. said Merz, citing the case of a Muxhe actress who made up a corpse in the film. “It was as good as makeup you would expect from a professional makeup artist.”
….and industry stereotypes
Audiences are now so cinema-savvy that they can sense the industry scale of most movies they watch, from restrained indie to high arthouse or low-fi sci-fi. Some movies will of course still throw them away. For much of its journey, “De Noche…” weighs like a confined art and essay, shot in and around one location in remote Limousin. When the movie seems almost done, it suddenly shifts to Mexico, however. Merz lived as a graphic designer in Mexico in 2007 and always wanted to shoot part of his film there, he says. “As a producer, I would never say something is not possible.” Filming Oaxaca, Mexico only required Merz and Mognetti to travel for a finale that mixes magical realism and plush socialism as it takes off on romantic terms, revealing another side to the film, like a love story. fully fledged.