A Trip to Paradox

Mike Ott’s moody micro-budget Littlerock patiently observes the California road trip of college-age Japanese siblings Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka, also the film’s co-writer) and Rintaro (Rintaro Sawamoto). En route to Manzanar, their car breaks down in the tiny desert town of Littlerock, where they soon fall in with a local crowd of young layabouts. They’re swiftly taken under the wing of Cory (Cory Zacharia), a tall-tale-spinner too effeminate for small-town America, and maybe too naive for anywhere else (a subplot involving his debt to a local thug is a weak link). Rintaro is impatient for the traditional tourist experience, while his sister is happy to waste away a few days on the perhaps more genuine American experience of loitering with floppy-haired rocker boys, chain-smoking, and chugging cheap beer. Okatsuka, speaking mostly unsubtitled Japanese when she speaks at all, gives a performance that’s a marvel of nonverbal reaction. Her “new American friends” treat her as a projection screen, and their quickly formed bonds prove to be about as reliable as Atsuko’s letters home to her dad, through which she clues us in on what she’s thinking by telling him the precise opposite. The film was the sleeper hit of the 2010 film-festival and indie-awards circuits.
Sept. 9-11, 2011

 
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