I caught a screening of Eric Byler's Americanese last night at the Opening Night of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. Byler had previously directed the underrated Charlotte Sometimes (2003), which was savaged by users on IMDb, partly due to its matter-of-fact attitude toward a mixed-race love story. I approached Byler's previous film with a certain amount of trepidation; here was yet another young filmmaker attempting to break into the movie business (using digital video no less) and probably tripping over a dozen others doing the same thing. But Byler had a unique touch, a palpable texture of the ebb and flow of life. Characters could pause and do nothing and they would still hold our interest.

From the first textured shot of Americanese, Byler establishes himself as the real thing. Based on the novel American Knees by Shawn Wong, the film is essentially a soap opera, a melodrama about break-ups, tentative new loves and family troubles, complete with a bit of a message about shaded levels of racism - not my usual cup of tea. But Byler handles it all with such grace and delicate humanity that it flows like air through wind chimes.

categories Cinematical