Night Watch

English Title: Night Watch

Original Title: Ronda nocturna

Country of Origin: Argentina

Studio: Cine Ojo

Director: Edgardo Cozarinsky

Producer(s): Marcelo Céspedes, Serge Lalou

Screenplay: Edgardo Cozarinsky

Cinematographer: Javier Miquelez

Art Director: Ignacio Lago

Editor: Martine Bouquin

Runtime: 81 minutes

Genre: Urban Cinema

Starring/Cast: Moro Anghileri, Rafael Ferro, Gonzalo Heredia

Year: 2005

Other Information:

Composer:
Carlos Franzetti

Format:
Colour, DV

 


Synopsis:

As night falls in Buenos Aires, Víctor, a hustler, wanders the streets amid vendors and homeless people. He cruises for tricks in the Santa Fe and Pueyrredón neighbourhood and gets picked up by a policeman for sex. As the night progresses, Víctor senses death surrounding him. He eventually connects with Mario, a taxi driver. They get a hotel room and enjoy a jacuzzi before having sex. Víctor awakens when Mario attempts to smother him. Fending off his attacker, Víctor soon finds himself alone in the hotel room. He returns to the streets and eventually meets Cecilia, a woman he once knew. She takes him out to the train tracks and they have an intense exchange before the sun comes up.


Critique:

There is something alluring about Víctor, the attractive protagonist of Night Watch, an interesting if not entirely successful character study-cum-thriller. Clad in jeans and a tight white t-shirt, Víctor is handsome, and the air of mystery he seems to possess, along with the outward confidence he initially projects, helps cement his appeal.

 

Víctor ekes out a nocturnal life working the streets by hustling for sex and dealing drugs. Cozarinsky deliberately offers Víctor only in the present; he has no past and, given the atmosphere of death that surrounds him throughout the film, possibly no future. It is this night in the life and life of the night that forms the basis for the mostly plotless Night Watch, a film that seduces viewers but never quite excites.

 

Víctor is a denizen of the night. He is seen plying his tradeallowing a police inspector to have sex with him for ‘protection’ and entertaining a client in a gym to earn cash. He also makes money dealing drugs and taking cash from an ambassador’s hotel room. He co-exists with the other people on society’s margins – the street vendors, the homeless and the other prostitutes, male and female and transsexual. In one of the film’s best moments, Víctor has an exchange with a female prostitute who is dressed like Margaret Thatcher; she offers clients a chance to ‘fuck Thatcher’. Much of Night Watch features poignant scenes of characters alone and silent at night. Cozarinsky’s approach creates meaning out of these small, intimate episodes that address how people communicate what they want through gestures, not words. Scenes of Víctor and his buddy playing in a shower, or doing a form of tai chi, show their palpable bond. However, Víctor is generally so passive in his evening rounds it becomes difficult to know what he wants or to care about what happens to him. The thin plot suggests that Víctor is going to die on the evening in question. Twice he is nearly run over by a passing car, and in one peculiar scene he witnesses a woman kissing a man only to observe her suddenly pushing him into an oncoming truck, causing his death.

Víctor’s conversations are also about death. His friend Mario describes a mutual acquaintance who ‘left’ the city but may have really died of AIDS; another friend died after helping Mario leave the streets. Víctor and Mario may have a connectionthey share an erotic tryst in a hotelbut things take a strange twist when Mario attempts to suffocate the sleeping Víctor with a pillow. There is a possibility that this incident could be a dream, but Cozarinsky is being cagey. Equally ambiguous is the climactic scene in which Víctor reunites with Cecilia, a woman with a secret from his past who may or may not be alive. Although this encounter consists of an intense discussion that leads to another death, by leaving it open to interpretation, this critical moment fails to achieve its necessary dramatic impact.

 

Night Watch seems curiously underdeveloped; even at 81 minutes there are lengthy episodes of Víctor helping some homeless folks, or playing soccer with some kids, that fail to move the plot along. These scenes may suggest something positive about his character, but Víctor is neither likable nor unlikable. This vagueness may be a function of Heredia’s uneven performance. There are times when the good-looking actor is appealing (e.g., in the jacuzzi with Mario), but more often he tries too hard to be expressive. Heredia fails to provide insight into what Víctor may be thinking as his encounters get stranger. His blankness reveals nothing. That may be Cozarinsky’s intent, but it fails to illuminate. Mario and Cecilia are both far more interesting; the film comes alive when Ferro and Anghileri are onscreen. 

 

Night Watch was shot on digital video and looks glossy when it should be grittier. For a film that features characters picking through trash and wandering the supposedly dangerous streets at night, the atmosphere is never as tense, threatening or seamy as the film wants to suggest. Nevertheless, it does provide an evocative glimpse into the Buenos Aires night even if it is not as haunting as it might have been.

Author of this review: Gary M Kramer