Shopping for Fangs

Billing itself as a "Generasian X genre-hopping thriller," "Shopping for Fangs" actually is an offbeat relationships movie (with a clever twist) whose cast happens to be mostly Amerasian. Pic falls on its face as many times as it succeeds, and neither Hal Hartley nor Wong Kar-wai should stay awake nights, but beneath the hip elements there's enough proof here that co-directors Quentin Lee and Justin Lin could go on to something more rounded in the future. Commercial chances are bloodless, but some fests may give this a spin. Script sets up four characters whose paths mostly cross by movie's end. Phil is a nebbish payroll clerk whose sister lives with a Caucasian who's an expert on lycanthropy; tremulous-voiced Katherine, married to a macho musclehead, has mysterious blackouts, mislays things and is afraid of having sex; Clarance is a gay student who does most of his work in a diner; and Trinh is a sassy, self-confessed lesbian in blond wig and shades who waits tables where Clarance hangs out.

With:
Phil ..... Radmar Jao Katherine Nguyen ..... Jeanne Chin Jim Lee ..... Clint Jung Naomi ..... Lela Lee Clarance ..... John Cho Grace ..... Peggy Ahn Matt .....Scott Eberlein Dr. Suleri ..... Daniel Twyman Sammi ..... .Jennifer Hengstenberg May ..... Dana Pan Dr. Hali ..... Roxanne Coyne

Phil tries to have a relationship with a girl at work but gets increasingly obsessed by his abnormal hair growth, thinking he’s turning into a werewolf. Meanwhile, Katherine mislays her wallet and starts getting love letters from Trinh, and Clarance confesses his emotional highs and lows to Trinh, now his soulmate. Main action starts when bodies start turning up in L.A., Phil thinks he’s to blame, and Katherine’s husband sets out to track down Trinh, who’s apparently stolen his wife’s heart.

Not much of this really makes much sense in the cool light of day, and none of the characters have any identifiably Asian characteristics. Still, Lee and Lin come up with such a good-looking product on an obviously minimal budget —

and enough moments of quirky, uneasy comedy — to pardon the script’s klutzier sections (mostly Phil’s werewolf obsession) and some of the weaker perfs.

Jeanne Chin is sappy as the tremulous Katherine, but the pic is enormously buoyed by splendid playing from the unbilled actress as Trinh, who looks as if she’s stepped straight out of “Chung King Express.” Radmar Jao is OK as Phil, and John Cho likable as the gently philosophical Clarance. The soundtrack could do with some cleaning to rid it of distracting background noise.

Shopping for Fangs

CANADIAN-U.S.

Production: A De/Center Communications production, with the support of Canada Council. (International sales: De/Center, Los Angeles.) Produced by Quentin Lee. Directed by Quentin Lee, Justin Lin. Screenplay, Dan Alvarado, Lee, Lin.

Crew: Camera (color), Lisa Wiegand; editors, Lee, Lin, Sean Yeo; music, Steven Pranoto; art direction, Deeya Loram; sound, Jeffrey Liu; casting, Josh Diamond. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 19, 1997. (Also in S.F. Asian American Film Festival.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With: Phil ..... Radmar Jao Katherine Nguyen ..... Jeanne Chin Jim Lee ..... Clint Jung Naomi ..... Lela Lee Clarance ..... John Cho Grace ..... Peggy Ahn Matt .....Scott Eberlein Dr. Suleri ..... Daniel Twyman Sammi ..... .Jennifer Hengstenberg May ..... Dana Pan Dr. Hali ..... Roxanne Coyne

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