The First Night of My Life (1998)

Rating:

aka My First Night (La Primera Noche De Mi Vida)

Spain/France. 1998.

Crew

Director – Luis Miguel Albaladejo, Screenplay – Luis Miguel Albaladejo & Elvira Lindo, Story – Elvira Lindo, Photography – Alfonso Sanz Alduan, Music – Lucio Gudoy, Special Effects – Reyes Abades, Art Direction – Angel Sarrion. Production Company – Le Sept Arte/Haut et Corte/Alphaville

Cast

Emilio Gutierrez Caba (Antonio), Carlos Fuentes (Johny), Juango Martinez (Manuel), Leonor Watling (Paloma), Manuela Fuentes (Jasmina), Adriana Ozores (Adri), Antonia San Juan (Toni), Roberto Hernandez (Johny’s Friend), Anna Lizaran (Johny’s Mother), Chema de Miguel (Bum)


Plot

On December 31, 1999, Manuel and his pregnant wife Paloma try to make their way to her father’s place for New Year’s celebrations but the van he has borrowed breaks down. Similarly, her father Antonio’s car breaks down, whereupon it stolen by the petty hood Johny. Abandoned on the outskirts of Madrid, Antonio encounters Johny’s girlfriend. At the same time, a girl working the late shift at a gas station despairs to her co-worker friend of being too small-breasted to ever find the right man. The fates of all these people manage to intertwine as the hour of midnight and the end of the century draws to a close.


The First Night of My Life is one of a series of films commissioned from directors all around the world by French production companies Le Sept Arte and Haut et Corte to celebrate the millennium. Others in the series include the Taiwanese The Hole (1998), Hal Hartley’s The Book of Life (1998) as the US entry, Brazil’s Midnight (1998), Belgium’s The Wall (1998), Canada’s Last Night (1998) and Life on Earth (1998) from Mali.

The First Night of My Life suffers from the same problem that dogged the weaker entries in the collection – The Hole, The Wall – namely that the story is of little significance to the date of the millennium. There is little of profound sociological weight to the story we have here – it is just a comedy about the accidental intersections of various characters as the millennial midnight draws to a close. There is footage from a tv documentary that charts the history of the 20th Century that plays in the background in two or three scenes but that is about as weighty as the film gets in regard to commemorating the end of the century. Indeed, the sole reason for The First Night of My Life‘s inclusion as a scence-fiction film in this guide is because it has a date that is set about a year in the future from when it was made – without this, it would drop from listing.

Director Luis Miguel Albadelejo has clearly been modelled The First Night of My Life on the frothy, ebullient comedies of countryman Pedro Almodovar whose films make a similar virtue of zany character interactions. However, Albadelejo never pushes First Night to the levels of hysteria or outrageous wildness of Almodovar. Where Almodovar’s earlier films verge on campy surrealism, The First Night of My Life seems merely amiable. There are occasional moments where Roberto Hernandez, returning a friend’s stolen truck, is caught between traffic officers arguing whose jurisdiction he is meant to be; or where Emilio Gutierrez Caba gets a ride in his own car but has to pretend it belongs to thug Carlos Fuentes and offers up nonchalant advice “You’ll find candy in the glove compartment” and reaching out for a ringing carphone – “It’ll be for me.” In the end though, The First Night of My Life is just a little too mannered to produce more than an occasional laugh.

Luis Miguel Albadelejo (usually credited as simply Miguel Albadelejo) has gone on to direct a number of other comedies, none of any particularly wide profile and none featuring any other genre material.


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