Review: ‘Night Watch’

"Night Watch" is a rewarding passage through the nighttime streets of Buenos Aires that doubles as a journey through its protagonist's increasingly paranoid mind. A visually fine but dramatically flawed homage to the city, pic traces one night in the life of a male prostitute, starting as pretty much straight-up social realism with some fine surreal touches.

“Night Watch,” cult helmer Edgardo Cozarinsky’s return to filmmaking in Argentina after years in France, is a rewarding passage through the nighttime streets of Buenos Aires that doubles, less rewardingly, as a journey through its protagonist’s increasingly paranoid mind. A visually fine but dramatically flawed homage to the city, pic traces one night in the life of a male prostitute, starting as pretty much straight-up social realism with some fine surreal touches. But the story loses its grip over a more vaguely evocative and less focused second half. Cozarinsky stalwarts will respond well, but new converts are unlikely.

Taxi boy Victor (tube thesp Gonzalo Heredia) leads a relatively charmed life, making a decent living by having regular sex with a police inspector and selling drugs. His buddies tells him to be careful, that when the inspector goes, he’ll be left with nothing.

After a few bizarre setups, Victor runs into old friend Mario (Rafael Ferro), with whom he checks out the local prostitutes before they go to a hotel, share a jacuzzi and have sex. Then Mario apparently tries to kill him and disappears.

A sense of menace builds nicely throughout as Victor narrowly more strange accidents. The issue of whether we’re seeing objective or subjective reality is kept nicely open until the late arrival of Victor’s ex g.f., Moro Anghileri, on the scene for pic’s overextended final 20 minutes.

The head-turningly attractive Heredia stays center-scene throughout, and, for the most part, copes well with the dramatic burden, but his part feels slightly underwritten — too long has passed before events start to wipe the cocky half-smile off his face and one can start to sympathize with him.

Film is more memorable for its atmospherics and visuals than for its somewhat arbitrary plotline — d.p. Javier Miquelez employs a compendium of illumination techniques, deftly shuttling between grittier, hand-held footage and dreamier, elaborately sensuous images. In stretches, the pic almost has a documentary feel in its rendering of the street scene of nighttime Buenos Aires. One laugh-out-loud moment shows a transvestite hooker plying her trade dressed up as Margaret Thatcher.

Score combines strummed guitar music, ironic-sounding modern tango, and orchestral. Technical credits, as always in Cozarinsky, are first class and attentive to detail.

Night Watch

Argentina-France

Production

A Cine Ojo (Argentina)/Les Films d'Ici (France) production. (International sales: Les Films d'Ici, Paris.) Produced by Marcelo Cespedes, Serge Lalou. Executive producer, Oscar Mazu. Directed, written by Edgardo Cozarinsky.

Crew

Camera (color), Javier Miquelez; editor, Martine Bouquin; music, Carlos Franzetti; art director, Ignacio Lago; sound (Dolby Digital), Alejandro Alonso, Gaspar Scheuer. Reviewed at Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (Special Screening), April 20, 2005. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Gonzalo Heredia, Diego Trerotola, Moro Anghileri, Rafael Ferro, Dario Tripicchio.
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