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An "Asian-American Graffiti" following eight high-schoolers during their eventful graduation night, "Yellow" boasts some diverting moments --- but no discernible control whatsoever over numerous fluctuations in tone and narrative focus. Fests looking for fresh (if highly formative) Amerindie voices might take a look, but commercial prospects are doubtful. Central figure is Sin (Michael Chung), who faces yet more hard time slaving in his strict, unpleasant Korean dad's L.A. convenience store if college scholarships don't pan out. Tonight he's dismayed to discover that his parents are leaving him in charge of closing up shop; after they leave, a trio of African-American youths show up and --- we're led to believe --- rob the store. Sin delivers this bad news to his party-ready friends. They don't question why Sin didn't call the police, creating a major hole in plot logic that hangs over all subsequent action.

With: Michael Chung (Sin), Burt Bulos (Alex), John Cho, Jason Tobin, Angie Suh, Mia Suh, Mary Chen, Lela Lee, Soon-Tek Oh, Emily Kuroda, Amy Hill.

Best pal Alex (Burt Bulos) decides the group will pool resources to help out Sin. Their available cash supply, however, comes up far short; the teens try other, variously on-the-level methods to score the necessary dough. Meanwhile, Sin puts pressure on his baffled girlfriend, Teri (Mia Suh), to join him in a spur-of-the-moment road trip to San Francisco.

As both writer and director, feature debutante Chris Chan Lee lets “Yellow” jump all over the place, without the thematic daring or stylistic bravado that might have lent such arbitrariness an internal logic. While numerous small

moments sport youthful energy and humor, they often run smack against poorly judged serious ones. Typically offbeat yet unsuccessful is the late juxtaposition of a tense, potentially violent second store robbery with broad comedy as Sin’s concerned mother (Emily Kuroda) consults an over-the-top spiritualist (Amy Hill).

Character development amongst the leads is spotty; there’s too much of Sin’s nervous gloom (overdone by Chung), and virtually no insight into fellow travelers like shy Janet (Lela Lee). Adult figures are painted in terms of

first-generation-immigrant stereotypes — sometimes with deliberate parodic intent. The scrutiny of larger racial attitudes promised by “Yellow’s” title never comes through.

Throwaway comic bits often demonstrate an assurance lacking in more dramatically important scenes; performances and lensing follow that same pattern. Other tech aspects are adequate. One consistent element is

soundtracking of some excellent indie-rock songs by Asian-American-led bands; their propulsive energy suggests the larkier, more enjoyable youth pic “Yellow”

might have been if its ambitions had been kept manageable.


Production: A Public Works Films production, in association with Legend Filmworks. Produced by Chris Chan Lee, David Yang. Co-producer, Rita Yoon. Directed, written by Chris Chan Lee.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), Theodore Cohen; editor, Kenn Kashima; sound, Curtis Choy; assistant director, Howard Karesh. Reviewed at AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco, March 8, 1997. (In S.F. Asian American Film Festival; also in L.A. Indie Fest.) Running time: 101 MIN.

With: With: Michael Chung (Sin), Burt Bulos (Alex), John Cho, Jason Tobin, Angie Suh, Mia Suh, Mary Chen, Lela Lee, Soon-Tek Oh, Emily Kuroda, Amy Hill.

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