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Temporada de patos (Duck Season)

(2006) *** R
85 min. Warner Independent Pictures. Director: Fernando Eimbcke. Cast: Enrique Arreola, Daniel Miranda, Diego Cataño, Danny Perea, Roberto Mirror.

In the Tlatelolco, Mexico observed by first-time feature director Fernando Eimbcke, the streets are quiet but not necessarily friendly to children. Up, up, and away from the streets in a concrete bunker of the Niños Heroes apartment complex, two middle-class teens live in their own hermetic world, but on one lazy Sunday, the outside world crashes their party. Though it superficially resembles the black-and-white slacker tones of Stranger Than Paradise and Clerks, Duck Season is its own bird.

Fourteen-year-old buddies (Diego Cataño) and Flama (Daniel Miranda) eagerly anticipate a day to themselves in Flama's apartment, and for a little while, their euphoria holds. Fueled by giant glasses of Coke, the two happily shoot at each other in the video-game fantasy world of Halo (albeit with fighters they dub "Bush" and "bin Laden"). Shortly, sixteen-year-old neighbor Rita (Danny Perea) encroaches, insisting on using the stove. Then the power goes out, and finally, a pizza man named Ulysses (Enrique Arreola) arrives and refuses to leave without the money he feels he's owed.

What follows is a bit like a cross between Seinfeld and The Wonder Years, ostensibly about nothing but hanging around but actually teeming with hormonal concerns and universal uncertainties among characters contemplating their next moves in life. Screenwriters Eimbcke and Paula Markovitch offer different perspectives on seizing the day, from innocents about to embark on their life-journeys and those further along the path. "Opportunities in life are like bullets in a shotgun," warns Ulysses, "and I've already fired mine."

Mostly, Eimbcke's film is in the details: arguments over who deserves what (the aforementioned pizza-payment argument and a parental divorce dispute), a bravado-laced recounting of a first kiss, and the botching of a cake recipe. The significance of the various pursuits is often unspoken, but all four see the bright side of (or give a flying flock about) a painting depicting free-birds. Instead of losing steam, Duck Season gets dryly funnier and more emotionally rich as it goes along, making it a fine way to while away an afternoon.

[For Groucho's interview with Fernando Eimbcke, click here.]

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