UNDERGROUND USA: INDIE CINEMA OF THE 80s - The Discipline of D.E. + Mala Noche

The Discipline of D.E. (Do Easy)

Quick to cut to the chase, Van Sant’s first film out of film school adapted William S. Burroughs’s short story, “Exterminator!” This 16mm short methodically & obsessively explores the notion of “Do Easy!”—a simple way of living life, a kind of zen-like approach to productivity, with the aim of executing all daily tasks in the easiest and most relaxed way possible.

Dir. Gus Van Sant, 1982, 35mm (Print Courtesy of the Academy Film Archive), 9 min.

Mala Noche

Adapted from Oregon native Walt Curtis’ autobiographical short story, Mala Noche remains a wildly successful debut film, “like an unrequited first love; jagged around the edges, tingling with expectation and inevitably, gorgeously, unsatisfying” (Kaori Shoji). Shot in just four weeks for around $20,000 (the majority of which came directly from Van Sant), Mala Noche effortlessly captures the spirit of DIY, independent cinema and primed the cinematic landscape for the New Queer Cinema of the 90s—spearheaded by the likes of Derek Jarman, Jennie Livingston, and Gregg Araki.

Shot by John J. Campbell (a soon-to-be Van Sant regular—Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, My Own Private Idaho), Mala Noche tells the story of Walt, whose obsession with a Mexican boy living in Portland’s Skid Row—who speaks little English and most often considers his aggressive sexual advances to be confusing and undesirable— drives the story. Van Sant’s ability to constantly pass the role of “other” between Walt & his object of desire, Johnny, keeps this debut story of amour fou pulsing with an authenticity, idiosyncratic insistence, and energy that can only come from truly independent cinema.

Dir. Gus Van Sant, 1986, 35mm, 78 min.

Watch the trailer for Mala Noche!