Wealthy, disaffected Asian-American teenagers in Orange County progress from cheating to theft to murder in this controversial shocker by writer-director Justin Lin. There’s something refreshing about the violation of ethnic stereotypes, especially when the stereotype is politically correct and the violation is more than a simple counterstereotype, and Lin clearly wants to make the kids’ amorality troubling and difficult to process–not confused and ambivalent, as one reviewer has maintained. He charts the lifestyles of his “Chinese Mafia” without bothering to show us any of their parents, which limits the material somewhat, but his sense of how some of them conspire to get good grades is convincing, and it’s telling that the kids being shown, especially the overachieving narrator-hero, wind up seeming much more American than Asian. The performances are strong without calling attention to themselves (which is more than I can say for the occasionally hackneyed use of rock on the sound track). 101 min. Lin will take part in a discussion at the Friday screening. Gene Siskel Film Center, Friday, April 5, 8:15, and Saturday, April 6, 10:15.
A program of experimental works using found footage. I’ve seen only two of them, but they alone are worth the price of admission: Bruce Conner’s first film, A Movie (1958), which draws material from diverse sources, and Martin Arnold’s Piece Touchee (1989), which manipulates footage from the 50s Hollywood feature The Human Jungle. Also showing are Peggy Ahwesh’s The Color of Love (1994), Scott Stark’s Noema (1998), and Naomi Uman’s Removed (1999). 122 min. (JR)
A genuine rarity: a sex comedy with brains. Even rarer, one with smart politicsso unobtrusive you may not noticeand wonderful acting. Writer-director Alfonso Cuaron went back to his native Mexico to put together this road movie about two 17-year-old boys from Mexico City, one privileged, the other working-class. On an impulse, they take off for a remote coastal beach with a 28-year-old married woman. It’s not difficult to understand why this movie was a smash success in Mexico, especially with teenagers; few films deal with teenage hormones, Latin machismo, and the complexities of friendship in such a refreshing way. The movie keeps surprising you and stays with you long after it’s over. With Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Maribel Verdu. In Spanish with subtitles. 105 min. (JR)