Thursday, March 23, 2006
Sitting in the courtyard of the Prado Restaurant, Mexican filmmaker Fernando Eimbcke recalls the silly idea that inspired him to make Duck Season.
FERNANDO EIMBCKE: What could happen to four characters in an apartment on a Sunday with nothing to do. I was sure that if nothing happens, something will happen.
And something does happen'something delightful. Two best friends, Flama and Moko, are left to their own devices one Sunday. Flama's mother is out and the boys have the apartment to themselves. They settle in for a glorious day of junk food'beginning with two tall glasses of Coke-a-Cola'and video games, including one that pits Bush against Bin Laden.
Then their first interruption occurs. Rita, Flama's sixteen-year-old neighbor, enters and demands to use their oven to bake a cake. Fine, Flama says, so long as he can get back to his game.
Then the power goes out, the video game goes off and boredom immediately sets in.
Water dripping from a leaky faucet marks time like an amusing and annoying metronome. With nothing to do, the boys order pizza.
The pizza place promises delivery in 30 minutes or it's free, so Moko sets his watch.
Ulises, the pizza guy, navigates the hazards of traffic, and multiple flights of stairs to arrive at the apartment door'
A minute too late. At least that's what Moko's watch says. The boys refuse to pay and the pizza guy refuses to leave. Now all four characters are stuck in the apartment together. As time casually passes, we discover that Flama's angry because his parents are getting a divorce; Rita's baking a cake because it's her birthday and no one noticed; Ulises is frustrated by a lousy job; and Moko gets his first kiss in the kitchen with Rita.
Writer-director Fernando Eimbcke says that the setting may be Mexico, but the kids could be anywhere.
FERNANDO EIMBCKE: The characters are universal, it doesn't matter the time, or the place. I search a lot of the characters in me in my teenage years and I think it's the same.
That's what makes the film so enjoyable, you can identify with the characters. Eimbcke shows how some things never change'kids will always find ways to entertain themselves and a lazy day with a best friend is always special. But he also shows how circumstances have changed' video games dominate play, parents are often away, and families break up more often. Flama says his parents fight constantly. Take the duck painting that hangs above the TV. It has become the object of a bitter power struggle as the parents divvy up possessions. But anger gives way to giddy fun as Rita bakes pot brownies.
Like the duck painting, each scene serves as a portrait of life in miniature. Eimbcke's visual style is refreshingly unadorned. He shoots in black and white, employs a stationary camera, and keeps cuts to a minimum. This conveys the confinement of the apartment. But his clever, unexpected framing keeps the film fun. He places his camera inside cabinets so we don't see Rita until she opens each door during her kitchen exploration. There's also a shot of all four on the balcony talking about the Beatles, and the image looks just like one of the Fab Four's album covers. Eimbcke's visual approach was inspired by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu and specifically Ozu's film Tokyo Story .
FERNANDO EIMBCKE: I wanted to use a very tight camera, no camera movements and cuts in a strange way like Ozu way, the Japanese director' I saw Tokyo Story when I was writing the script and wow. I loved that film, that kind of simple story that seems very simple but turns out to be complicated in terms of characters.
Duck Season is also a seemingly simple yet it says a lot about the angst of growing up, of children left on their own, of adults with unfulfilled dreams and about Mexico itself. Although Duck Season is about teenagers, it may appeal more to adults who will be prompted to reminisce about their youth and the pleasure of wasted days when time had a different quality. Eimbcke's film, with its wonderful cast and appealingly laid-back attitude, is a pleasing antidote to big, noisy films that think they're about something.
Duck Season is in Spanish with English subtitles. -----