Dir. Anne Émond
In certain kinds of softcore, perky tits and erect cocks are met with sophisticated ‘Oh that’s controversial’ high-brow arousal, and everyone feels smug and turned on by the ‘subversive’ sex scenes depicting oral sex, taut bodies, and pleasant orgasms. Everyone is as white as the post-coital cigarettes they smoke and undereye shadow bags convey a kind of chronic depression brought about by having ‘so much sex.’ There’s a part of me that sort of enjoys watching hot privileged people pretend to be miserable as they cup a flaccid penis in one gorgeously pale hand while the other hand traces a strong jawline, all the while muttering lines like, “I always break pretty things.” I don’t know what it is but I feel like it has something to do with the fact that I really love Sugar-Free Vanilla Soy Lattes from Starbucks. There are hundreds of films like this, terrible pieces of shit in which casual sex and nudity serve as some kind of false confidence booster hiding the fact that these works of art have absolutely nothing to offer other than contrived one-liners and pretty bodies boning and moaning. But Nuit #1 seems different. A film about a one-night stand, it seems to hate itself with a self-awareness that isn’t so much a parody of other softcore films as it is an honest portrait of what it feels like to spend your nights fucking someone just as loathsome as you.
Clara (Catherine de Léan) and Nikolaï (Dimitri Storoge) meet at a nightclub and Nikolaï takes Clara home to fuck her, asking for her name as soon as they shut the apartment door. Nikolaï falls asleep post-fucking but awakes to Clara sneaking out the front door. He calls her back into his apartment for what is essentially a thirty minute slut-shaming monologue, wherein he accuses her of being ‘easy’ and tells her that she’s stupid, but switches gears to say he’s a terrible person who can’t hold down a job, who treats women like shit, and who can’t afford to pay rent. He hates other people. He hates himself. It’s an excruciating first half of the film, not because of the supposed ‘brutality’ of what Nikolaï says, but because we have no reason to care about what he thinks or why he’s saying what he’s saying, as up until this point he’s simply been a body thrusting on a shitty mattress in an even shittier apartment. Clara is silent, absorbing the blows, and her initial silent apathy is aggravating. Why is she wasting her/our time listening to Nikolaï’s nonsense? I had to stop the film and re-watch it a few days later due this bozo monologue from such a bozo bro. Second time around, I made it to Clara’s turn, and holy shit am I glad I did, because otherwise I don’t think I could’ve written anything on this film — not a word, not a drop, I would’ve forgotten about it just as soon as I turned it off.
Clara sits in the bath with her knees drawn up under her chin and Nikolaï sits on a closed toilet. Clara tells him she’s a second grade teacher, she tells him she goes out every weekend, she tells him she does drugs mostly to fuck and last night she held two men’s cocks in her hands. Nikolaï stares at the floor. Then she tells him she knows what it’s like to be an empty shell, to want to die, every day the sun, unfortunately, rising. Then she says, “I just want things to unfold more or less the way they’re supposed to: birth, life, death. Maybe find one or two truths to hold onto… Some force that would keep me with the living in the here and now… That would stop me from flying towards darkness all the time. It feels like I’m struggling with everything, all the time. I’m a little tired. I don’t mind fighting. I have the stamina. It’s just that… It’s such an absurd fight. It’s a constant battle. It’s like treading water. I’m doing what it takes to stay on the surface, just enough not to drown. But fuck, I’m swallowing water. Huge mouthfuls.” This is only an excerpt from a twenty-minute monologue that ends the film. These lines kill every used-up onesie Nikolaï spat at Clara before she had the chance to say, “You think you’re shit? I’ll give you shit.” Catherine de Léan’s performance in this last scene saves Nuit #1 from being a complete waste of time. It’s an interesting decision for writer and director Anne Émond to save such little screentime for de Léan, but perhaps it’s indicative of what it’s like to spend your nights fucking and running. You don’t get a chance to speak; you’re only a body. Or maybe it just took Émond sifting through amateur/softcore cliches to find her own perspective. Who knows. One could talk gender here — I kind of want to, but I won’t, so I’ll say this film’s isn’t a heavy-handed “women can fuck, too” kind of agenda, rather: a voiced void, the lack we all feel, and regardless of what meat we have to offer, some of us are just better butchers.