In “Nuit #1,” the provocative and erotic first feature film from Montreal filmmaker Anne Émond, anonymous sex turns into emotional over-exposure in the course of one night. Like the relationship she has chosen to dissect, the film is promising, disappointing, touching or frustrating, depending on the moment.
The couple meet at a rave, a mass of sweat-soaked hipsters jumping endlessly and mindlessly to the music. All, it would seem, are in a drug-induced haze, their movement slowed so that they seem suspended in an indefinable space.
Soon enough, though, lust and longing sends two of them to a seedy-looking apartment. Just inside the door, as clothes are being pulled off in that frenzy of overheated desire, he pulls back to ask her name. Clara. He is Nikolai.
And then Clara (Catherine de Léan) and Nikolai (Dimitri Storoge) make love, for a very long time. The camera, in the very capable hands of cinematographer Mathieu Laverdière, never turns away from the coupling bodies, panning across the hills and valleys of flesh. The scenes are beautiful and troubling, raw and visceral. Individual need trumps personal connection with every kiss, every caress.
Sometime later, after Nikolai has fallen asleep, Clara showers, dresses and slips out. He wakes, calls down the stairwell for her to come back and then we get into the meat of the movie, a series of monologues.
Using long stream-of-consciousness-styled dialogue, the film begins to sweep across a series of issues that infect and reflect relationships these days. It is an intriguing discourse, but it doesn’t take advantage of what a film can give a story — the ability to move around, occupy various spaces, create more personal interaction than declamation.
As a result, “Nuit #1" often plays like a play rather than a movie: Two characters, three pretty clear acts, almost all of the action unfolding within the confines of an apartment.
Returning to some of the same themes she explored in her short films, Émond continues her smart contemplation of youth and the difficulties of making meaningful emotional connections in these times. Whatever growing pains “Nuit” may suffer from, lack of intelligence isn’t one of them.
Yet what ultimately holds your attention is the actors. De Léan gives Clara a bruised softness that works well against the lean hard resentment — both in look and action — that Storoge cloaks Nikolai in. They know how to fill up silences with emotion. And when they are given all those words, they savor them.
What De Léan and Storoge expose is not just their bodies but the souls of their characters as they wrestle with whether this is just a one-night stand or the beginning of something more.