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"Duck Season"

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This relatively brief film about relatively normal people caught up in a minor trauma when the power goes out is mildly engaging. But there is an emptiness at its core reflective of the black-and-white format chosen by its director, newcomer Fernando Eimbcke. In the end you may be asking what the title has to do with any of it. It's doubtful even Eimbcke knows.

The movie begins with Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cata¤o), two teenage boys left on their own for an afternoon of soda and video games. They cheer up as soon as Flama's mom shuts the door, and they heave themselves on the couch for an intense chip-munching session. This is interrupted first by a neighbor, 16-year-old Rita (Danny Perea), who wants to use the oven, then by a power outage, and finally by a wayward, philosophizing pizza delivery guy named Ulises (Enrique Arreola), who gets caught up in a dispute over the money.

"Duck Season" reminded me of the Spanish film "Nico and Dani" (2001). The subject matter — two boys left alone for a spell of trouble and growth — is nearly identical. While the former is a beautiful, earthy production of depth and perception, "Duck Season" seems trite and barely believable. Flama and Moko, as if they too had seen the earlier movie, eye each other a few times with a look like a question mark above their heads, and make tentative gropings. It seems more like a desperate last-minute attempt by Eimbcke to instill some life in his movie than real yearnings. In the process these child characters unwittingly take on the persona of the movie: Both have simple feelings that move them, but lack real courage and ideas.

The fact is, moving pictures are not merely vehicles for neat story ideas. Compelling cinema has many ingredients, often beyond and sometimes unrelated to the modes and goals of conventional storytelling. If you make a movie solely for the story it will end up like "Duck Season" — flat and contrived, perhaps cute but amateurish and banal. In duck terms, you'll be a quack. ** S



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