Duck Season (Temporada de Patos) Review

It’s a Sunday and 14 year-old Flama (Daniel Miranda) and his friend Moko (Diego Cataño) are minding house while Flama’s mother is out for the day. The boys settle down with a couple of litres of Coca-cola for hours of uninterrupted action on the X-Box. Uninterrupted that is except for a power cut. And a 16-year old neighbour, Rita (Danny Perea), who wants to use their oven for 15 minutes. And for a pizza delivery man, Ulises (Enrique Arreola), who isn’t going to leave until he gets paid for the disputed late delivery of a half mushroom and half salami pizza. It doesn’t look like things are going to plan for the boys.

Duck Season (Temporada de Patos) is a quirky little chamber comedy about four unusual characters with their own quirks and hang-ups who unexpectedly find themselves thrown together and end up letting their hair down and getting some issues off their chests. It’s also a nice little exercise for the filmmakers to play around and experiment with characterisation and form – putting a group of characters together and seeing what happens, while playing around with rhythm, pacing and structure. Time is elastic in Temporada de Patos - the rhythm of the boys boredom when the electricity cuts out collapsed down into measured beats, then speeded up in the next scene while the pizza delivery man races to deliver their pizza against the clock, slowed down again in the pause over the disputed delivery time, quickened again as they play-off a football game to settle the matter. Then, blam – power cut again. Syncopating this rhythm is the neighbour Rita, preparing her dish in the kitchen to her own measured metronomic beat.

This is short film material though and it doesn’t really work quite as well in the longer format. When it slows down, it’s dull and nothing happens; when it speeds up it feels a little too studiously calculated to be funny or genuinely quirky. Extending the film slightly to allow for greater characterisation feels like a mistake, as the characters aren’t really that interesting or deep, the situations aren’t original and the acting is not great. At times, the chamber quality of the piece, the structure, the rhythms and some of the themes developed - not to mention a lead character with red hair and a certain dancing sequence - bring to mind François Ozon’s Water Drops On Burning Rocks - or at least a junior version of the more adult themes played out there. There are other little references here and there and playful camera angles (although the camera in the fridge angle is well played-out now) that indicate the director’s background in music videos. For all it is though, Duck Season is mildly diverting, and it does about as well as can be expected by drawing as much as it does from the lame duck theme and the limitations of the characters and situation. Oh, and keep an eye out for a final showdown scene between Flama and his mother in the post-credits coda.

Duck Season is released in the UK by Optimum Releasing. It’s released as part of their ‘Discoveries’ series, in conjunction with BBC Four, which has admirably brought over a wide selection of new world filmmaking talent. The DVD is encoded for Region 2.

The film is shot in black and white, possibly on 16mm stock, and it displays excellent greyscale tones with depth, detail and clarity. There are certainly no marks or scratches of any kind to be seen anywhere on the print. There is a low level of grain, doubtless a quality of the film stock, but it is very fine and hardly attracts attention. One or two scenes in flashback are deliberately shot to exhibit more grain. Occasionally the image looks a little soft or out of focus in wide shot, but this could just be down to limited depth of field and is again more than likely a characteristic or speed of the film stock. In the main, this is a fine transfer of a clear print without even any evidence of compression artefacts.

The DVD gives you the choice of Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1 mixes. There is not a great deal of difference between either option, as there is not a great deal of use made of the rear speakers and the subwoofer only rumbles occasionally. The dialogue is relatively clear, although the sound recording isn’t always perfect – a consequence of the indie-style nature of the filming.

English subtitles are included, but are fixed to the transfer and cannot be removed.

Surprisingly, there are a nice little selection of extra features included here. There’s a short Making of (8:53), which is little more than an EPK overview of the film’s making, but interesting nonetheless. A Natalia Lafourcade Music Video (2:16) includes clips from Duck Season, but just like the film itself it tries a little too hard to hard to be weird and quirky. The film’s theme music, El Pato however is a delightful and lively bossa nova tune. A Theatrical Trailer (1:06) and Teaser Trailer (0:26), both play up the ‘kids go wild while the parents are out’ angle. All the extra features for the film are 1.85:1 letterbox.

Duck Season is a pleasant enough little film, entertaining and diverting with a certain sense of style and indie charm (and it is no surprise to see Jim Jarmusch thanked in the film credits) – but it does feel a little too contrived and too eager to appear cool and quirky. You would however need a better script and more quotable dialogue than this to be a cult classic. The film is nicely presented on DVD, with good audio/visual quality (although Optimum have got to get rid of these fixed subtitles on their releases) and they’ve even gone to the trouble of including a suitably short selection of decent supporting extra features.

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