Since the beginning of his career, Amat Escalante He positioned himself as one of the key names in the establishment on the Mexican scene of the so-called cinema of cruelty in its most inclement version formally. What would be one of the most disastrous consequences of the fact that, at the dawn of the 21st century, Robert Bresson’s notes on the cinematograph were reinterpreted by sadists in film schools around the world.
From that spicy broth of rigorous theoretical framework, delinquent dramatization and thirst for stunning sensationalism they have drunk names as diverse as Bruno Dumont, Andrey Zvyagintsev either Carlos Reygadas. It was under the protection of the latter, and with an undoubted artistic influence, that Escalante began his brief but intense filmography, which has led him to accumulate two awards for best direction at the Cannes festivals. (Heli, 2013) and Venice (The Wild Country, 2016).
Nevertheless, Lost in the night his fifth feature film and the closing of a seven-year hiatus in which he has worked as a director on episodes of Narcos: Mexico, moves away from those coordinates and embrace the closest thing to commerciality to which one can aspire with explicit images of sex and violence. All in all, not much for the one who won those awards with close-ups of burning genitals or a tentacle sex scene worthy of lovecraftian fervor.
lost in the night starts precisely with a small nod to Possession (1981), the masterpiece of Andrzej Zulawski to which his previous film owed so much. Unfortunately, that’s where the matter ends. Although Escalante has already begun working with professional actors in wild country, separating himself from his previous work so marked by the use of natural interpreters, here he directly counts on international stars such as ester foundling either Barbara Mori.
One aspect that contributes to dilute the personal signature of the filmmaker. Just like the invoice of the story, which does not lack the characteristic ingredients of violence and inequality in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, like his previous work, but whose development is more like a rudimentary Hollywood thriller where the social criticism and political denunciation to which one wants to allude are only elements of the landscape.
Ester Exposito to the rescue
The curious thing about the matter is that if something fights to prevent the film from falling into oblivion in a sea of interchangeable proposals, it is precisely the presence of Ester Expósito and her performance with an intermittent Mexican accent. While the phonetic flicker can be justified with the build of the character and his long stint in Spain, it’s a shame that lost in the night give him little to do beyond continuing to exploit the posh girl registry who has been practicing since Elite.
She is Mónica, the eldest daughter of the Aldamas, a wealthy couple of artists who use demands and social commitment as an excuse for their work but could be behind quite terrible practices such as the disappearance, years ago, of Emiliano’s mother, the protagonist played by Juan Daniel Garcia. Their opposition to the opening of a large mine in the town was repressed in the most terrible and violent manner.
The kidnapping sequence allows us to glimpse perhaps what could be snippets of what is expected in an Escalante film. Just like other moments like a tender couple masturbation in turns or the inevitable moment Ester Expósito topless, characterized as an influencer with suicidal tendencies in the oldest approach to social networks that has been remembered in Cannes since happy ending (2017), by Michael Haneke.
Those brief flashes of attack on viewers bloated by the streaming menu make it more noticeable how watered down the rest of the footage is, including plot twists that would be found inexcusable in products in Hollywood. Without being a version 0.0 of Escalante’s cinema, it is undoubtedly his lightest work.
lost in the night
Emiliano seeks to find out the truth about his mother’s disappearance five years earlier, when she was protesting against the construction of a mine in her town. This leads him to start a complicated relationship with the daughter of a wealthy family in the area.
Script: Amat Escalante
Cast: Ester Expósito, Juan Daniel García, Bárbara Mori, Fernando Bonilla, Jero Medina
Duration: 120 min.
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