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Miss Kicki

A Swedish mother and son head to the Far East in search of their identities.

With: Pernilla August, Ludwig Palmell, Huang Ho, Eric Tsang, Britta Andersson, Ken Lin, Gwen Yao. (English, Swedish, Mandarin dialogue)

A Swedish mother and son head to the Far East in search of their identities and new relationshipsin the episodic, half-formed Taiwanese-Swedish co-production “Miss Kicki.” Though the title evokes some kind of chopsocky adventure, the pic actually recalls early Wim Wenders with its meandering tone and revealing searches across alien landscapes. Strong perfs carry “Kicki” past debut helmer Hakon Liu’s forgivable first-timer-tics and the script’s rough patches. Fests will want to take a look.

After a 12-year stint in the United States, aging good-time girl Kicki (Pernilla August) is reunited with her emotionally shut-down teenage son, Viktor (Ludwig Palmell), in Sweden. In an effort to get reacquainted, Kicki invites her son to join her on vacation in Taiwan. Kicki’s hidden agenda is that Taipei is also home to a businessman (Eric Tsang) with whom she has been conducting an Internet romance.

Once in Taipei, Kicki shunts her boy aside but can’t summon the courage to let her online paramour know she’s in town. Kicki procrastinates by drinking and flirting with the hotel clerk (Ken Lin) while Viktor explores the city and strikes up a friendship with a maybe-gay Taiwanese teen, Didi (Huang Ho). The teens explore the city by moped but run afoul of the local cops for reasons that are not made entirely clear; the untangling of Viktor’s escapades compounds errors in Kicki’s own misadventures.

Like its protags, the narrative has a tentative nature and takes time to overcome its skittishness. But drama, and some wit, finally find expression around the 40-minute mark with a great confrontational scene, after which the film promptly settles back into its directionless malaise. Neither truly succeeding nor ever quite failing, the pic seems only partially formed. The final impression is that many details were lost in post-production.

Except for wobblecam indulgences, Taiwan-raised Liu helms confidently and seems equally comfortable in both Euro and Asian locales.

The film is boosted considerably by August’s convincing perf in the underdeveloped role of Kicki, whose compulsive flirtations and alcoholism are presented with depth and authenticity. Likewise, in an even more underwritten part, Palmell conveys a genuine sense of a youth on the cusp of sexual experience. Though surrounded by more fluent multilingual thesps, Huang holds his own. Tsang makes his usual strong impression in a few brief scenes.

Tech credits have the quality veneer of Euro indie productions.

Miss Kicki


Production: A Migma Film (Sweden) presentation of an Ocean Deep Films (Taiwan) production, in association with the Media Program of the European Union. (International sales: Migma West, Gothenburg.) Produced by Lizette Jonjic. Executive producers, Yeh Jufeng, Anita Oxburgh. Directed by Hakon Liu. Screenplay, Alex Haridi.

Crew: Camera (color), Ari Willey; editor, Fredrik Morheden; music, Fredrik Viklund; production designer, Ellen Oseng, Tsai Peiling; art director, Chin Shihwei; sound (Dolby Digital), Tang Shiangchu. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (Flash Forward), Oct. 10, 2009. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Pernilla August, Ludwig Palmell, Huang Ho, Eric Tsang, Britta Andersson, Ken Lin, Gwen Yao. (English, Swedish, Mandarin dialogue)

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