An attractive cast suggests pickup potential in sophisticated territories.

With “Weekend,” Joaquin Mora joins the growing list of young, independent-minded Chilean filmmakers eagerly embracing the benefits of low-budget video production and loose semi-narratives, their work exuding a sense of openness and a carefree, apolitical attitude that’s certainly not their parents’ cinema. What begins as a friendly road trip down the Pacific coast turns into a potential menage a trois that resists classification as drama, comedy or dramedy. Though no artistic breakthrough, the pic deserves fest attention, and an attractive cast suggests pickup potential in sophisticated territories.

Santiago-based freelance chef Pato (Patricio Ochoa) preps a dinner for gal pal Francisca (Francisca Benedetti) as a way of helping her through her break-up with crusty b.f. Gaspar (local star Diego Munoz). Mora and cinematographer Claudio Labrin capture the characters in tight, roving closeups that strongly mimic John Cassavetes’ physically intimate style, building to a fiery confrontation with Gaspar, who brands Pato a “parasite,” wrongly figuring the chef has stolen Francisca away.

Pato and Francisca escape from the city Sturm und Drang to Francisca’s parents’ relaxing beach home at a popular Los Vilos beach resort. But before they arrive, they impulsively pick up hitcher Sofia (Sofia Garcia), who curiously says she’s planning to go to the Chilean north, even though Pato and Francisca are southbound.

Younger, more verbal and more energetic than cool, laid-back Francisca, Sofia soon presents Pato with the enviable situation of being the only guy around two fairly hot women during a long beachside weekend. He’s able to further pour on the charm with his considerable skills in the kitchen (which Ochoa demonstrates quite convincingly), but marijuana-induced conversation leads to some unbecoming confessions on his part.

Sofia isn’t put off by this, and soon has her way with him in bed — which he obviously enjoys. The focus of “Weekend” becomes clear gradually, as it observes in relaxed fashion how young people veer between attraction and independence, sending confusing signals that lead to genuinely hurt feelings. The film’s surprising effect is to elicit those feelings from the audience.

Besides a scattershot shooting style and some choppy editing, the film’s primary flaw is its ending, shown in a flat, unaffecting montage.

Ochoa soft-pedals his good-natured character, whose drawbacks are revealed gradually, while Benedetti and Garcia veer between poker-faced calm and emotional outbursts. Munoz makes a brief but potent impression.

Weekend

Chile

Production

A Cine Banco Estado and Olguin presentation. Executive producers, Patricio Ochoa, Joaquin Mora. Directed by Joaquin Mora. Screenplay, Mora, Macarena Dominguez.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Claudio Labrin; editors, Felipe Gonzalez, Gonzalo Pavez; music, Julian Pena; production designer, Daniela Fabres; costume designer, Fabres; sound (stereo), Isaac Moreno; re-recording mixer, Cristian Mascaro. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (World Cinema Now), Jan. 9, 2010. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Patricio Ochoa, Francisca Benedetti, Sofia Garcia, Diego Munoz.

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