Here's an early candidate for next year's Chlotrudis Buried Treasure Award: this engaging black-and-white Mexican indie is about two fourteen-year-old best friends, Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Catano). On one Sunday afternoon, they have Flama's mother's apartment to themselves and plan on doing nothing but playing X-Box, drinking cokes and ordering pizza. However, not long after their sixteen-year-old neighbor Rita (Danny Perea) asks to use their kitchen to bake a cake (because her oven's not working), the power goes out. With the addition of Ulises (Enrique Arreloa), an older, initially hapless-seeming pizza delivery man, the four of them spend the day figuring out creative ways to amuse themselves and pass the time within the apartment, which is located in a vast high rise housing development.

Much like Ulises, Fernando Eimbcke's film is unassuming and unremarkable at first, but as more about each character is developed and revealed, it grows on you considerably. The minimalist style, complete with brief fade-in, fade-out transitions, is surely influenced by both Ozu and early Jarmusch (both are thanked in the credits), but Eimbcke is less formally rigorous than the former and less deadpan but more emphatic than the latter. Plus, he has an ear for how teenagers talk and reveal themselves to each other. Sweet, poetic, and not at all pretentious, this little gem of a film reminds me why I value indie cinema so much. If you see this one, make sure to sit through the closing credits for a fun surprise at the very end. (5/5)


Coincidentally, I saw another Mexican film this week: Carlos Reygadas' second feature which is also set in Mexico City but could easily have taken place on another planet. The film, in a nutshell: middle-aged, poor chauffer Marcos (Marcos Hernandez) lusts after Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz) his rich, jail-bait client. A lot. Now, it didn't even occur to me that scene after scene of Marcos and Ana engaging in graphic oral sex might all be a figment of the former's imagination until my boyfriend pointed it out to me. And knowing that helps me appreciate the film more. BATTLE is an encouraging advance on the director's JAPON in that the camera movements are even more stunning, the soundtrack immensely stirring, and the plot is relatively easy to follow in comparison. He also has intelligent things to say about the class struggle in his country. Unfortunately, it doesn't add up to as great of a film as I was hoping for. Unlike the charming DUCK SEASON, it's astonishingly pretentious, But I do admire Reygadas' decision to show two particularly unattractive people having sex without turning it into a joke or draining all the warmth and affection out of it. (3/5)