Sunsets

Life for post-high school, pre-college career types in agribiz-dominated central California proves convincingly rudderless in "Sunsets." There's nothing very wrong with co-helmers Michael Idemoto and Eric Nakamura's debut feature, but nothing outstandingly right, either. The grainy B&W, dryly humorous, whadda-you-wanna-do?-I-dunno-whadda-you-wanna-do? slacker thing has been done too many times now, often with greater distinction, but indie-oriented fests might bite. The three protagonists are a multiracial lot (Caucasian, Chicano and Japanese-American), though virtually zilch is made of their separate backgrounds. In fact, what "Sunsets" needs most is some supporting characters or subplots; exclusive focus on leads' cruising-around, mildly criminal summer is hardly enough to hang a feature on, however accurately observed.

With:
Gary ..... Josh Brand Dave ..... Nicholas Constant Mark ..... Michael Idemoto

At the season’s start, Gary (Josh Brand) has just been released from another jail stint for petty offenses. He quickly falls back into business-as-usual hanging out with hometown Watsonville pals Dave (Nicholas Constant), who has a dull day job at a comic-book store, and Mark (co-helmer Idemoto), who at least has university entrance to look forward to come September.

Gary’s parental home life is apparently on the unpleasant, white-trash side, so he mostly sleeps in Dave’s vintage car and eggs them all on toward renewed “shopping” expeditions (i.e., breaking into parked cars and empty houses).

Much beer is drunk, junk food eaten and girls discussed (but never seduced). Dave alone seems to perceive something wrong here — though his hinted-at alcohol problem suggests he might also have the hardest time finding a real adult-world berth. Drifting into a backyard party, the trio just socialize amongst themselves, then stupidly get into a fistfight with the host. At the end, Gary has blundered back into the hoosegow; an epilogue offers some hope that this forced end to mutual layabout dependency has given each protag some much-needed motivation.

Script may well be improvised; in any case, there’s very little urgency to anything here. While the resistance to stock boys-in-the-hood melodrama is admirable, and some moments sport mild insight, result is a film whose nearly

every scene feels expendable. Lead actors deliver credible, naturalistic turns, though their characters are simply established rather than developed. Supporting

players make only fleeting appearances.

Straightforward tech package is OK within quasi-verite bounds; best element is Ken Kawamura’s cool jazz-combo score, though recording quality for both music and dialogue varies.

Sunsets

Production: A Cousin's Film production. Produced, directed, written, edited by Michael Idemoto, Eric Nakamura.

Crew: Camera (B&W, 16mm), Nakamura; music, Ken Kawamura; sound, Kaveh Zahedi. Reviewed at AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco, Feb. 19, 1997. (In S.F. Asian American Film Festival.) Running time: 98 MIN.

With: Gary ..... Josh Brand Dave ..... Nicholas Constant Mark ..... Michael IdemotoWith: Gary Webb, Craig Wong, Randy Mano, Benny Archibeque, Juanita Archibeque, Marilyn Zuniga, Akio Idemoto, Kay Idemoto, Greg Wong.

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