Dir: Cesc Gay. Spain. 2000. 90 mins.
Prod co: Messidor Films. Backers: Canal Plus, Television de la Catalunya. Int'l sales: Art Box. Prod: Marta Esteban, Gerardo Herrero. Scr: Cesc Gay, Tomas Aragay. DoP: Andreu Rebes. Prod des: Llorenc Miguel. Editor: Frank Gutierrez. Music: Joan Quilis, Albert Manera, Ricard Casals. Main cast: Fernando Ramallo, Jordi Vilches, Marieta Orozco, Esther Nubiola, Chisco Amado.
This small, likeable, unpretentious Catalan coming-of-age film seems an unlikely choice for Critics Week at Cannes. But, once the reign of impermeable arthouse cinema, Critics Week is becoming more and more like Audience Week. Set in an upmarket Catalan beach resort, Krampack is about adolescent friendship, sexual identity, and masturbation; imagine American Pie directed by Francois Truffaut, and you might come close (although not that close).
Its charms are simple and linear, with a strongly developed central relationship taking centre stage throughout. The theme, the compilation soundtrack and the reassuring nods at TV conventions (including kitsch end-of-scene musical breaks) will appeal to the teen market at home in Spain, though older voyeurs will enjoy the nostalgia factor.
Dani is the only son of a well-off couple who leave him with the housekeeper while they go on holiday to Egypt. He invites his best friend - proletarian Nico - to stay in his palatial seaside villa, and the two set about repairing motorbikes, talking about life, and preparing to get themselves laid. Except that Dani soon realises that he is more interested in Nico than any of the girls on offer. In the end, the two have moved apart without really realising it - a transition which the film manages with some finesse.
Krampack is good on the crushing jealousies and setbacks of adolescence; also the awkwardness of playing at being grown up (in a bar, Dani asks for a cognac; when the barman asks which one, he says, with a swagger: "Baileys"). Some of the dialogue falters, and the adolescent existentialism can be wearing at times, but the two central performances are solid, and only viewers who skipped their teenage years will fail to be drawn in. The film remains, though, a small, fragile charmer. Its target audience outside of Spain is likely to be older and less commercially-oriented than at home - at least in territories where subtitling prevails over dubbing.