Tonight (Nuit de chien)



Additional Venice Film Festival reviews

Venice Film Festival, In Competition

VENICE -- Noir doesn't get any darker than in Werner Schroeter's film version of Uruguayan novelist Juan Carlos Onetti's "Tonight" (Nuit de chien), a grim tale set in a state-controlled South American city torn apart by competing military factions.

The film is unrelenting in its depiction of cruelty and torture meted out by an unleashed secret police force and the corruption and indifference that terror breeds in people. Bereft of optimism, its portrait of nihilism let loose is frightening and dismaying but it's a taut and gripping picture and should have a profitable future.

Pascal Gregory is all Bogie as grizzled, seen-everything Ossorio, a doctor who has returned to the war-torn city to find Clara, the woman he loved and left. He also needs to find two tickets that will get them on the only boat out of town before the head of the secret police, a rival strongman, a partisan outlaw and the armed forces combine to blow the place to pieces.

Ossorio's nightlong trail leads him to a nightclub called the First and Last, full of fading luxury and decadence, and encounters with vicious secret police chief Morasan (Bruno Todeschini), treacherous rival Commander Martins (Jean-Francois Steverin) and the trapped outlaw Barcala (Sami Frey). Once a friend of Ossario's, Barcala is holed up in a booby-trapped villa wearing a belt of hand grenades and bearing a machine gun.

Ossario knows all the key players and they know Clara but he has a hard job finding her even though he trades information and people as callously as those who emerge from the political twilight to do business with the secret service. His quest seems futile until a contact at the nightclub leads him to his outlaw friend's young daughter Victoria (Laura Martin) and he is faced with the dilemma of trying to save her or trading her to the sadist Morasan.

The acting is entirely persuasive with Gregory terrific as the disillusioned but determined doctor and Todeschini a convincing villain. Director Schroeter makes the city a place of constant dread with cinematographer Thomas Plenert creating vivid images that please the eye as they sear the mind.

Production companies: Alfama Films, Filmgalerie 451. Cast: Pascal Gregory, Bruno Todeschini, Amira Casar, Eric Caravaca, Marc Barbe, Jean-Francois Stevenin, Sami Frey, Elsa Zylberstein. Director, screenwriter: Werner Schroeter. Screenwriter: Gilles Taurand, based on the novel by Juan Carlos Onetti. Producers: Paulo Branco, Frieder Schlaich. Executive producer: Eileen Tasca
Director of photography: Thomas Plenert. Production designer: Alberte Barsacq. Music: Eberhard Kloke. Costume designer: Isabel Branco. Editors: Julia Gregory, Bilbo Calvez, Peter Przygodda. Sales agent: Alfama Films. Not rated, 120 minutes