|Director Fernando Eimbcke|
DUCK SEASON (Temporada de patos) A- Mexico (90 mi) 2004 d: Fernando Eimbcke
A delight from start to finish, from its quiet, opening black and white still images by Alexis Zabé which are presented without sound, which fade to black after every shot, like Aki Kaurismäki, to the selection of the cast, who are pitch perfect throughout, to an amazing sound design, including original music by Liquits, a piano passage by Alejandro Rosso, and a brief passage by Beethoven (from his 4th Piano Concerto), but what’s starkly different here is how this first time director assuredly finds the right quirky tone to present his material. The tone is one of subdued elation as two middle class 14-year old housing project kids, best friends Flama and Moko, Daniel Miranda and Diego Cataño, are left home alone one Sunday afternoon after mom goes off to some unannounced engagement, where they’re finally free from the world of grown ups and responsibilities and can just sit back and play video games, share a liter of coke on ice, eat chips and be happy, like a live, theatrical rendition of The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. When they are momentarily interrupted by a neighbor girl next door who needs to use their stove, 16-year old Rita (Danny Perea), they barely even notice, as they can’t take their eye off the screen even for a split second. All is going according to plan until the power suddenly goes off, leaving the two boys with nothing to do and a girl in the kitchen who announces she’ll be staying a bit longer because she now has to do everything by hand. So, bored and hungry, they dial for a pizza delivery and two large cokes, where the deliveryman on a motorbike has to contend with speed bumps and a housing complex with dozens of different high rises all looking exactly the same with nearly identical addresses. When he arrives on the scene with no power, he has to traipse up 8 flights of stairs, pizza and helmet in tow, only to be told by these two ungrateful customers that he was 11 seconds late, so they’re not paying. When the pizza man, Ulises (Enrique Arreola), refuses to leave, a Mexican stand off ensues, or, another journey begins.
This coming-of-age drama is so cleverly written by the
director and Paula Markovitch that it resembles a minimalist theatrical piece,
an interior existentialist chamber drama all taking place in one or two
rooms. What follows are small vignettes,
moments in time, character studies taking place in real time that seem
mysteriously odd, like impressionistic pieces that reveal the wit and character
of each person, which turn out to be surprisingly funny and uniquely
original. The initial obsession with
“wasting time” playing games is interrupted by a power outage where people have
to find something to do. Inevitably what
happens, much like John Hughes’ THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985), is that they quite
unintentionally discover each other.
Ulises, true to his name, has been separated from his home town of San
Juan and dreams of returning, but he keeps getting screwed over by bad
relationships and dumbass jobs. Flama’s
parents are divorcing and spend all their time arguing over who gets what piece
of property, all of which is driving him crazy.
Moko is just happy to have a friend to hang out with on a regular basis,
and Rita, the odd one out, insists on baking a cake for her birthday that her
own family forgot (another John Hughes reference), but things continually go
wrong in the kitchen. Brownies, she
finally decides, are so much easier.
Meanwhile, she’s happy to have a helper in the kitchen like Moko,
implanting her own worldly wisdom on a cute 14-year old while dreaming of being
a rock star, making the most of her opportunity of being the girl next door
while Moko grows weary of beating the eggs.
Winner of no less than 11 Oscars from the Mexican Ariel Awards in 2005, Eimbcke is a master of understatement, where suffice it to say, the pizza gets eaten along with the cakes and marijuana brownies that kick-in in no time, slowing things down to a dead crawl where occasionally someone will be asleep on the sofa while others will be chatting away, but all are visibly moved by a painting on the wall of ducks in a pond, one of them taking off in flight, a metaphor for their own adolescent development, especially with no adults on the premises, but each one is sure the painting is moving. Ulises is so fascinated that he places it in the bathtub so he can stare at it while he takes a bath, eliciting a surrealistic image in his mind, where in one wondrous moment he actually steps inside the painting. It’s a gentle exploration of their own empty lives filled with a beguiling curiosity, where the director has the added capability of mixing together a series of wordless images for comic effect. Wise beyond their years, using music and editing that only enhances the poignancy of each moment, the cameraderie of the characters takes on a surprising intelligence and social complexity that extends even into the end credit sequence, which offers its own surprises, beautifully capturing the aimlessness and apathy of youth with understated, Jim Jarmusch-style cinematic poetry, suggesting a journey well spent, leaving the audience charmed and thoroughly captivated by this delightful film.