Continuing the patchwork, autobiographical style of his first feature, “The Adopted Son,” Kirgiz helmer Aktan Abdykalykov’s “The Chimp” is essentially more of the same, a series of small incidents centered on the everyday life of its protagonist, here a 17-year-old teenage boy in a bleak Central Asian town. Though more visually rigorous than the kid-centered “Son,” and certainly less playful and humorous, pic is a copper-bottomed fest entry, with limited distribution potential beyond highly specialized outlets.
The film completes a loose trilogy begun with the 1993 short feature, “La balencoire,” and is Abdykalykov’s first pic entirely in color, with precision lensing by Hassan Kydyraliev throughout. On every tech level, “Chimp” is a step up from “Son,” with an orchestral score by Alexander Yurtaev that varies from ethnic-flavored chamber scoring to more full-blown cues.
Title character (Mirlan Abdykalykov) is so nicknamed because of his jug-like ears, but in most other respects his adolescence is no different from children of a similar age worldwide. His girlfriend causes him perpetual angst, his relationship with his father (Dzylkycy Dzakypov) is strained, and he and his buddies wile away their time before military service playing pranks, brawling, talking about girls and cycling around the unprepossessing neighborhood. There’s even a blousy hooker (Alexandra Mitrokhina) taunting their manhood.
Not a great deal happens in the movie apart from the boy’s mother (Ainagul Essenkoyeva) walking out with the Chimp’s younger sister and the boy himself finally coming to an understanding with his morose, alcoholic father. Between times, he experiences occasional beatings by Russian kids (though racial tensions are not really dealt with) and spends a lot of time wandering on his own.
In pacing, the film recalls the very early works of Taiwanese helmer Hou Hsiao-hsien, especially “The Boys from Fengkuei” — marginally distanced but rooted in reality. Overall, however, the pic is suffused with a French art film aesthetic that’s also noticeable in other Third World-set movies with Gallic financing. Always tightly controlled, and seemingly aimed at a Eurofest audience, “The Chimp” has a garnished feel — rough life observed through a protective pane of glass — that robs it of any real emotion. Performances are adequate.