Friday, April 23, 2010
Mike Ott (U.S., 2008)
Mike Ott in Person
A road-tripping Japanese brother and sister spend several lost days discovering the less flattering flipside of California dreaming in this charmingly scruffy tale of failures in cross-cultural understanding. Rintaro and Atsuko are a brother and sister visiting the United States for the first time. They are headed for Manzanar, the former home of Japanese internment camps, when their rental car breaks down in the Los Angeles exurb of Littlerock. Despite barely speaking the language, they soon fall in with the aimless young locals, including an awkward outcast named Cory who is clumsily plotting an escape to Los Angeles. He is clearly taken with Atsuka, but she finds fumbling romance with another boy instead, even though the two don’t understand a word between them. Atsuka is seduced by this place that is so unlike her home and seems to embrace the tradition of California as a place to attempt to escape troubles, while her brother seems more attuned to its darker side. Director Mike Ott exhibits an astute familiarity with his setting, convincingly evoking the languid rhythms of young people lacking purpose, drinking and smoking their days away without ever managing to truly communicate. The dazzling sunsets and soaring mountains provide counterpoint to the small-town claustrophobia rife with petty sniping, racial tension, and homophobia. Whether they’re black, Mexican, Japanese, or white, everyone’s talking to each other but no one really understands. Gently funny and sweetly melancholy, Littlerock is an empathetic yet slyly pessimistic depiction of young people trying and failing to be understood as they lurch towards adulthood.
• Written by Ott, Atsuko Okatsuka, Carl McLaughlin. Photographed by McLaughlin. With Okatsuka, Cory Zacharia, Rintaro Sawamoto, Roberto Sanchez. (85 mins)