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'Ethan Mao' and 'Boy'

Thu 9 Jun 2005 In: Movies

ETHAN MAO Dir: Quentin Lee USA, 2004 35mm, 87 mins Best enjoyed without reading the Out Takes programme first, Ethan Mao is full of surprises. It's also full of great characters, and a scary adrenalin-rush of a plot that has been cut up and rearranged in parts to keep you guessing. File it under edgy coming of age romantic thriller, and you'd probably get close to the mark. Ethan is from a well-to-do blended Chinese/American family. Earnest, naive, and perhaps a little self-involved, he's a bit like a parallel universe version of Harry Kim from Star Trek: Voyager, only on this plane of existence, Harry didn't try and settle down with a nice girl while secretly pining after the ship's pilot. He turned tricks and took recreational drugs like they were going out of fashion. Ethan's stepmum is a glorious has-been glamour-bitch of the type not seen since Joan Collins in Dynasty. She's sneaky, not-to-be-trusted, and utterly thrilling. His stepbrother is a homophobic bully resembling a young Dean Cain who probably shouldn't be trusted either. And Ethan's dad, who appears to be a hardworking stern traditionalist, may turn out to be just a little more. The visual style is great, with all of the scenes in Ethan's family home being shot on lush 35mm, and everything outside on gritty digital video, providing a great contrast between the two worlds and emphasising how out-of-touch Ethan's privileged and seemingly-safe home life is with rough life on the streets, which he will see a taste of. And I can't really say any more than that without ruining what has been one of the most compelling, smart and enjoyable movies of Out Takes 2005. Ethan Mao would be easy to overlook, but the best pictures often are. A big tick for this one. PRECEDED BY: BOY Dir: Welby Ings NZ, 2004 35mm, 15 mins A dark and artful short, Boy reminds us what a lost art silent cinema is. Building up a picture of small-town nastiness for a young gay teen which leads to its inevitable fatal conclusion, Boy relies only on its images and and flashed on-screen titles to tell its story. Some of the titles are a bit too literal and unnecessary, and Anchor Me by The Muttonbirds – which makes up the backbone of the soundtrack – has always left me cold, but this Oscar-contender which has played around the world is a thoughtful piece of work with some great surreal touches that provides a disturbing snapshot of the darker side of Kiwi life. Chris Banks - 9th June 2005    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Thursday, 9th June 2005 - 12:00pm

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