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A universe where reality and fiction, Eros and Thanatos, lightness and drama mix to surprise, confuse and entertain the viewer. This is the film De noche los gatos son pardos, a work in the running for the Pardo d’oro by the young Swiss Valentin Merz, a writer who has already made himself known internationally with the intimate and personal documentary Brüder – Ein Familienfilm (2015). De noche los gatos son pardos is one of the most daring titles of the Festival program, where explicit and unaccommodating sex scenes abound. The content is not the only unsettling element: the planes of reality multiply, merge and create a labyrinthine sensation that accompanies the viewer throughout the film. The characters themselves, who share names with the actors, are difficult creatures to read, precisely because it is not easy to distinguish reality and fiction within the diegetic universe. They are multiform and mysterious creatures that do not allow themselves to be interpreted according to the canons of classical dramaturgy. The story, however, presents a main fil rouge, which unfolds like a thriller with very noir hues with explicit references also to the zombie vein: a film crew, polyglot, varied and very queer, is shooting an erotic film in costume set in a sylvan context when Valentin, the director played by Merz himself, suddenly disappears into thin air throwing actors and technicians into panic. The local police, we are in France, begin to investigate, but never seem to come to grips with a mystery that thickens from scene to scene. Local characters used by the production as extras are also called to testify. Meanwhile, inexplicably, the shooting continues and takes on the disturbing tones of the macabre. Other characters disappear: Robin, lover of the director and camera crew operator, also disappears and we find him at the end of the film in a South American forest. The music is used in a very original way: the pieces constitute a sort of pause in the narration, almost in the manner of the arias of the opera, and become a means to announce further developments of the drama, to comment on the events narrated or as a lyrical moment. Merz decides to include these songs in full, such as the Italian version of Aline by French Christophe, whose text heralds the main drama of the protagonist's disappearance. In his film, Valentin Merz shows courage and a great love for cinema, not so much as a work to be contemplated, but as a creative process made of emotions, play, roles and community.
With De noche los gatos son pardos Valentin Merz won in 2021 the Cinegrell First Look Award during the Locarno Pro days.