Updated 5:05 p.m., Thursday, August 9, 2012
Drama. Starring Catherine de Léan and Dimitri Storoge. Directed by Anne Émond. In French with English subtitles. (Not rated. 91 minutes.)
Two people, who've just met in a bar, go home to his lousy apartment and proceed to have sex, and we are there watching them in "Nuit #1," a raw and explicit French-Canadian film that I must admit to having mixed feelings about. The characters are fictional, but the sex is real - as in the actors Catherine de Léan and Dimitri Storoge are really doing that - and somehow this doesn't seem like a proper use of sex to me, nor of cinema, nor of the actors, though maybe they didn't mind.
Following sex, she tries to sneak out, and then a conversation ensues, a long one. He talks about what a complete, self-destructive mess he is - long monologues - and then she talks about what an emotionally disconnected empty shell of a person she is. And they each sit there listening, because each knows he or she is no better than the other.
Here's the thing: This movie would be easy to mock as maudlin and self-important, but there's something about it that can't be dismissed. The monologues may be theatrical and presentational - director Anne Émond made this film when she was 29 and too young to be subtle.
But the characters' voices are alive; and the financial and emotional traps they're in are believable and ultimately moving. These are young lives derailed, people without hope, purpose or moral grounding. "Nuit #1" is an expression of all this and perhaps a symptom of it, too.
What's more - there's no point in denying this - somehow the monologues' effectiveness is partly tied to the fact that we see the actors put it all on the line in that first scene. It throws them into the same stewpot as the characters and raises the stakes all around.
So this is a different kind of movie, as graphic as porn, but not porn, not titillating and not unintelligent. It's committed - some new and highly disturbing version of a really good movie.
Mick LaSalle is The San Francisco Chronicle's movie critic. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org