THE NIGHT AND THE MOMENT almost turns into a mini-camp classic, but never quite establishes itself as either a send-up of costume pictures or a genuine attempt at frou-frou gone very wrong. This international coproduction was acquired by Miramax for theatrical distribution, but wound up
making its US debut on home-video in 1998.
In mid-1700s France, a Georgian aristocrat, the Marquise (Lena Olin) plays host to a group of weekend houseguests. During the night, a dashing writer (Willem Dafoe) sneaks into the Marquise's bedroom to begin an elaborate, night-long seduction. The Marquise resists the writer's advances. The
writer then tries to impress the beautiful woman by telling her several tales of erotic intrigue.
In one story, the writer tells how he ravaged the young, coquettish Armande (Carole Richert). In another story, he tells how he tangled with the older Julie (Miranda Richardson), disproving her theory of physics--that heat drains desire--by making love to her. Finally, the writer tells how he was
imprisoned by the Governor (Jean-Claude Carriere) for his licentious writing and, during his time in jail, came to fall in love with a mystery woman in an adjoining cell, with whom he shared love notes but could never see.
Near the end of the evening, after repeatedly rebuffing the writer, the Marquise welcomes his declarations of love. They make passionate love the rest of the night. At dawn, the Marquise informs the writer that she was the mystery woman in prison and had asked the Governor to put her in the cell
because she had always loved the writer and wanted to be near him. With their feelings being mutual, the Marquise and the writer decide to go public with their secret affair.
THE NIGHT AND THE MOMENT circumnavigates two subgenres at once: the revisionist costume picture (like Ettore Scola's LA NUIT DE VARENNES) and the steamy soft-porn-styled "women's picture" found most often on late night cable television. The big mystery of the film is not the identity of the
writer's cellmate (the solution is obvious), but rather just what such recognizable, established talent had in mind making such a flimsy potboiler.
Since most of the elements are so badly handled, it is hard to figure out whether the people involved were way off their stride or merely spoofing the material. Coscreenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, Bunuel's great, frequent collaborator, surely must be winking at the viewer with the excess of
flowery lines such as the Marquise's assertion, "I admire men and I often reflect with fright how impulsive they can be." Carriere's cameo as the crusty Governor provides an additional layer of irony in that his performance far outshines the (deliberately?) miscast main stars, Dafoe and Olin, who
are both dreadful in their attempts at a declamatory style. The results are like a high school production of DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988) with the supposedly roguish Dafoe looking more foppish and foolish than ever.
Even if one accepts THE NIGHT AND THE MOMENT as a minimalist, cartoon version of either THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (the 1977 Bunuel-Carriere classic), with its frustrating and seemingly endless seduction-rejection plot, or THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT (1982), with its deconstruction of its
mystery plot, why then did Carriere and director-cowriter, Anna Maria Tato, allow the climactic consummation and banal happy ending? What's to make of Tato's absurd, repeating 360-degree pan during the first kiss or Ennio Morricone's pseudo-Baroque score, capped by the florid end-title song? It's
all unfathomable, which may be the point. But, then, as the Marquise says, "This is very unfunny clowning." (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: THE NIGHT AND THE MOMENT almost turns into a mini-camp classic, but never quite establishes itself as either a send-up of costume pictures or a genuine attempt at frou-frou gone very wrong. This international coproduction was acquired by Miramax for theatr… (more)